U.S. Govt announces new measures to unlock solar potential on Western public lands

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Laura Daniel-Davis recently announced Government's new efforts to support solar energy development on public lands across the West and help meet the country's ambitious renewable energy and conservation goals.

As an agency within the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will develop an updated plan to guide responsible solar development activities on public lands through an updated Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) based on the 2012 version. The 2012 Solar PEIS identified Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah as the states with high solar potential and low resource conflicts to guide responsible solar development. Now in 2022, the BLM will add more states, adjust exclusion criteria and seek to identify new or expanded areas to prioritize solar deployment.

Public Land Resource

Meanwhile, the BLM is initiating reviews for three proposed solar projects on public lands in Arizona with an estimated total capacity of over 1 GW. They are the proposed 600-MW utility-scale Jove Solar project in southeastern La Paz County, 250-MW Pinyon Solar project in Maricopa County and 300-MW Elisabeth Solar project in Yuma County.

Our review of these proposed projects in Arizona, and a new analysis of the role public lands can play in furthering solar energy production, will help ensure we keep the momentum going to build a clean energy future, lower costs for families and create robust conservation outcomes on the nation's lands and waters.

—said Secretary Haaland in a statement.

"We take seriously our responsibility to manage the nation's public lands responsibly and with an eye toward the increasing impacts of the climate crisis. The power and potential of the clean energy future is an undeniable and critical part of that work," said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Daniel-Davis.

A notice to update the 2012 Solar PEIS will be published in the Federal Register this week. A 60-day public comment period will begin.

Besides, the BLM is currently processing 65 utility-scale onshore clean energy projects proposed on public lands across the West, with a combined potential capacity of over 31,000 MW. 

To further clear the growth bottleneck of solar in the U.S., both the public and private sectors are researching different land resources and exploring various means to accelerate solar deployment. Solar on closed landfills has also become another growth segment. The EPA has seen an 80 percent increase in landfill solar projects between 2015 and 2020.

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