WASHINGTON — Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Wednesday unveiled what he described as a "smart from the start" renewable energy plan that includes two dozen solar energy zones in six states, including Utah.

Comments are being sought over the next 90 days on the draft solar environmental impact statement, which proposes two dozen zones suitable for large-scale solar development that would power as many as 1 million homes.

"This provides a common sense and flexible framework" in the next step to develop a new energy portfolio for the region, Salazar said in a DC-based teleconference.

Under consideration in Utah are nearly 17,700 acres, including Iron County's Escalante Valley, Beaver County's Milford Flats South and west central Utah's Wah Wah Valley.

The plan contemplates 677,400 acres of Bureau of Land Management property that also includes Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada and California with high solar potential and on public lands with the fewest environmental and resource conflicts.

To facilitate industry interest, Salazar said the Interior Department will fast-track the permitting process and the U.S. Department of Energy will make millions available in tax credits and loan guarantees.

In addition to the comment period, Salazar said the federal agencies will host 14 public meetings throughout the West to detail the plan, which is scheduled to be released in final form in the fall of 2011. The first meeting will be held in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 2.

"We want feedback from the public on these renewable zones so we can incorporate local input," Salazar said.

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