Federal officials have taken another step toward establishing 17 new "solar energy zones" on public lands in the West by barring new mining claims that could impede renewable energy development on the sites.
The Interior Department said Friday it has withdrawn nearly 304,000 acres of public lands in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah from new mining claims.
To streamline solar development, the new zones are located near existing transmission lines, and were chosen because they had fewer environmental and cultural issues that would require years of study and mitigation.
Since 2009 the Bureau of Land Management has approved 25 solar projects in the West that when built will be able to power more than 2.4 million homes.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.