Obama administration clears way for huge solar projects.

FRESNO - The Obama administration moved Tuesday to streamline the development of large-scale solar projects on public lands by approving 17 vast tracts across the West it says has the highest power-generating potential and the fewest environmental impacts.

As developers scramble to secure utility-scale solar sites, the plan will move the Department of the Interior away from having to consider individual projects on a case-by-case basis and instead direct development to land already identified as having fewer wildlife and natural resource obstacles.

"Today's announcement is a roadmap for solar development for decades to come and will help create an enduring and sustainable energy future for America," said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

The announcement means the Department of Interior will begin a 30-day protest period, after which Salazar could adopt the plan.

The release of the environmental impact statement was the result of a two-year study involving government regulators, environmental groups and utilities. It identifies land where the Department of Interior has streamlined the environmental approval process and offered reduced lease payments as development incentives.

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