Prospects for the solar energy industry just keep on getting brighter.

Yesterday, the Department of Interior announced an effort to speed up the development of solar projects on dedicated public lands in the west.

The Bureau of Land Management will evaluate the solar suitability of 24 zones of land designated Solar Energy Study Areas in six states -- Nevada, Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. In all, the land comes to 670,000 acres. The department also said it's opening one of four renewable energy coordination offices in Nevada to help evaluate applications for energy projects. So far, the BLM has received 158 solar-related applications.

"The two dozen areas we are evaluating could generate nearly 100,000 megawatts of solar electricity," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a release. "With coordinated environmental studies, good land-use planning and zoning and priority processing, we can accelerate responsible solar energy production that will help build a clean-energy economy for the 21st century."

Solar stocks were mixed on the day thus far. Shares of

First Solar

(FSLR) - Get Report

and

Ascent Solar Technologies

(ASTI)

were in positive territory, up 2.3% and 1.8% respectively.

SunPower

( SPWRA), and

Yingli Green Energy

(YGE)

joined them, gaining 1.1% and 3.3% by the afternoon.

LDK Solar

(LDK)

and

Evergreen Solar

( ESLR) were changing hands in the red today, losing 2.8% and 3.1% respectively.

Suntech Power

(STP)

, which today announced the signing of a $50 million convertible loan agreement with the World Bank's IFC, saw its shares rise 1% in the afternoon.

SunPower announced plans yesterday to work with Wells Fargo to fund some $100 million worth of solar projects. Wells Fargo will provide the financing. Customers will enter into purchase agreements with SunPower, which will also design, build and maintain the solar installations.

Canadian Solar

(CSIQ) - Get Report

shares were down 2.3%, while

JA Solar's

(JASO)

ADRs were losing 1.5%.

Earlier today, JA Solar said its COO was retiring. In the same announcement, Baofang Jin, the company's co-founder, chairman and biggest shareholder, was named the executive chairman with additional senior management responsibilities. Samuel Yang will continue as CEO.

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