Solar & Wind Encouraged
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.