The U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has proposed new regulations intended to promote the use of ‘designated leasing areas’ for solar and wind energy development right-of-ways (ROWs) to spur such projects on public lands in the West.
The rule would establish competitive processes, terms and conditions – including rental and bonding requirements – for solar and wind projects both inside and outside the designated leasing areas, and provide incentives for leases in designated leasing areas. Existing regulations limit the competitive process to situations involving overlapping ROW applications.
The BLM's action is a component of its 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 Solar Energy Zones (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 BLM-managed land. If fully developed, projects in the designated leasing areas could produce as much as 27 GW of solar capacity.
As part of his Climate Action Plan, President Barack Obama has instructed the DOI to issue permits for at least 20 GW of renewable energy on public lands by 2020.
‘This competitive process will encourage access to leasing opportunities for renewable energy projects, create greater certainty for developers and provide a fair market return to American taxpayers for the use of public lands," says Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, in a statement.