So­lar & Wind En­cour­aged

Catron Courier - - News -

Sec­re­tary of the In­te­rior Sally Jewell an­nounced a new leas­ing process by the BLM to spur so­lar and wind en­ergy de­vel­op­ment on pub­lic lands.

The an­nounce­ment builds on a re­lease of an in­no­va­tive, land­scape-level blue­print for re­new­able en­ergy and con­ser­va­tion, cov­er­ing more than 22 mil­lion acres in the Cal­i­for­nia desert. The draft Desert Re­new­able En­ergy Con­ser­va­tion Plan will pro­tect ar­eas for wildlife, recre­ation, cul­tural her­itage and other uses while stream­lin­ing per­mit­ting for so­lar, wind and geo­ther­mal en­ergy projects.

The pro­posed reg­u­la­tions would pro­mote the use of “des­ig­nated leas­ing ar­eas” that in­clude the Bureau of Land Man­age­ment’s So­lar En­ergy Zones (SEZs). The rule would es­tab­lish com­pet­i­tive pro­cesses, terms and con­di­tions (in­clud­ing rental and bond­ing re­quire­ments) for so­lar and wind en­ergy de­vel­op­ment right-of-ways inside and out­side the des­ig­nated leas­ing ar­eas.

The BLM’s ac­tion strength­ens the Western So­lar En­ergy Plan, an ini­tia­tive to ex­pand util­ity-scale so­lar en­ergy pro­duc­tion on pub­lic lands in Ari­zona, Cal­i­for­nia, Colorado, Ne­vada, New Mex­ico and Utah by es­tab­lish­ing SEZs with ac­cess to ex­ist­ing or planned trans­mis­sion, in­cen­tives for de­vel­op­ment in those zones and a process for con­sid­er­ing ad­di­tional SEZs and so­lar projects. There are cur­rently 19 des­ig­nated SEZs cov­er­ing more than 298,000 acres of BLM­man­aged land. If fully de­vel­oped, projects in the des­ig­nated leas­ing ar­eas could pro­duce as much as 27 gi­gawatts of so­lar en­ergy—enough to power about 8 mil­lion homes.

Ear­lier this year, the BLM held a com­pet­i­tive auc­tion for re­new­able en­ergy de­vel­op­ment in the Dry Lake So­lar En­ergy Zone in Ne­vada un­der ex­ist­ing reg­u­la­tions. The July 30 auc­tion, which gen­er­ated over $5.8 mil­lion in high bids, se­lected pre­ferred ap­pli­cants to de­velop util­ity-scale so­lar en­ergy projects on six parcels across 3,000 acres in Clark County.

The wind, so­lar and geo­ther­mal projects could support more than 20,000 con­struc­tion and op­er­a­tions jobs and gen­er­ate enough power for nearly 4.8 mil­lion homes. The Fed­eral Reg­is­ter pub­li­ca­tion kicks off a 60-day com­ment pe­riod that closes on De­cem­ber 1, 2014.

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