The Dept. of the Interior recently released an updated roadmap for solar development across the West that should expand solar energy production in more Western states. The Bureau of Land Management released a revised environmental review of the Western Solar Plan, also known as the Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS), a document that was last updated in 2012.
The updated roadmap identifies public land in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming that would be ideal for solar leases. BLM worked with NREL to examine forecasts for national clean energy needs and determined that approximately 700,000 acres of public lands would be needed to meet those goals. The BLM’s preferred alternative in the updated Western Solar Plan would provide approximately 22 million acres of land open for solar application, giving maximum flexibility to reach the nation’s clean energy goals.
By directing development to areas that have fewer sensitive resources, less conflict with other uses of public lands and close proximity to transmission lines, the BLM can permit clean energy more efficiently while maintaining robust public and Tribal engagement, which are central features of all BLM reviews of individual projects.
BLM utilized $4.3 million from the Inflation Reduction Act to invest in these important updates to the Western Solar Plan. This investment is helping improve the solar development application process by providing developers with better predictability, while also maintaining sufficient flexibility to address site-specific resource considerations. This planning work also seeks to provide updates that respond to changes, like advances in technology, that have occurred since the BLM’s last programmatic solar development planning effort over a decade ago.
“Today, the Bureau of Land Management revised a decade-old policy and opened 22 million acres of federal land for responsible solar development. The proposal also identifies 200,000 acres of land near transmission infrastructure, helping to correct an important oversight and streamline solar development,” said Ben Norris, vice president of regulatory affairs at SEIA, when BLM released the new document. “Under the current policy, there are at least 80 million acres of federal lands open to oil and gas development, which is 100-times the amount of public land available for solar. BLM’s proposal is a big step in the right direction and recognizes the key role solar plays in our energy economy.”
News item from DOI