WASHINGTON — Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has scheduled a series of public meetings in six Western states, including Utah, to solicit input on proposed solar energy zones capable of sustaining commercial-scale projects.

Utah-based meetings will be held in Cedar City and Salt Lake City in March as part of an effort to collect comments on the "Draft Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement," which has been compiled over the past two years.

A swath of public lands in Utah is among those identified by the study as being environmentally compatible for large-scale development of solar power. Overall, some 17,700 acres are under consideration for the zones, including Iron County's Escalante Valley, Beaver County's Milford Flats South and Wah Wah Valley in west central Utah.

The project pairs the efforts of the Interior Department with the U.S. Department of Energy as a way to promote the development of renewable energy resources.

"This comprehensive proposal and early planning is designed to site solar projects in the right places and reduce conflicts and delays in developing our new energy economy," Salazar said.

Utah meetings are:

 March 9, 7 p.m., Crystal Inn Hotel & Suites, 1575 W. 200 North, Cedar City

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 March 10, 7 p.m., Hampton Inn & Suites, airport, 307 N. Admiral Byrd Road, Salt Lake City

The meeting sites in each city will be open to the public one hour prior to the start of the event and will remain open until all comments have been heard. Individuals may register to speak at a meeting in advance through the Solar PEIS project website, http:/solareis.anl.gov, or may register one hour prior to the meeting.

The draft document and related maps are also available online at the project website, where comments can also be submitted.

— Amy Joi O'Donoghue