Federal Government Releases Roadmap for Solar Energy Development on Public Lands
The Department of the Interior, in partnership with the Department of Energy, will publish the Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for solar energy development in six southwestern states—Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah.
Key elements include:
- an initial set of 17 Solar Energy Zones on 285,000 acres across 6 Western States;
- a process for industry, the public and other interested stakeholders to propose new or expanded zones; efforts already underway include California’s Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan and the West Chocolate Mountains Renewable Energy Evaluation, Arizona’s Restoration Energy Design Project, and other local planning efforts in Nevada and Colorado;
- strong incentives for development within zones, including faster and easier permitting, improved mitigation strategies, and economic incentives;
- a clear process that allows for development of well-sited projects on approximately 19 million acres outside the zones;
- protecting natural and cultural resources by excluding 78 million acres from solar energy development;
- design features (best practices) for solar energy development to ensure the most environmentally responsible development and delivery of solar energy; and
- a framework for regional mitigation plans and a strategy for monitoring and adaptive management; the first mitigation pilot for the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone is already underway.
The BLM is engaged in ongoing transmission planning efforts, including through the Transmission Expansion Planning Policy Committee and the Western Electricity Coordination Council’s transmission study.
The July 27 Federal Register Notice of Availability for the Final PEIS will begin a 30-day protest period, after which Secretary Salazar may consider adopting the document through a Record of Decision. The BLM released the Draft Solar PEIS in December 2010, and in response to the over 80,000 comments received from cooperating agencies and key stakeholders, issued a Supplement to the Draft Solar PEIS in October 2011.