General news, events, and announcements relating to the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM's) Solar Energy Program. Links to announcements relating to specific states are provided on the right.
The BLM continued to advance solar energy development on public lands in 2018 by approving three new solar projects:
On June 26, the BLM signed a Record of Decision authorizing the Sweetwater Solar Energy Facility in Sweetwater County, Wyoming, the first solar energy project on BLM-administered lands in the state. The Sweetwater solar energy project will be a photovoltaic (PV) facility with a generating capacity of up to 80 MW. The project will include PV modules, switchgear, a monitoring and maintenance facility, collection and distribution power lines, access roads, and temporary construction laydown/staging areas. The project area include 638 acres on public lands and 65 acres on private lands. Operations are anticipated to begin in early 2019. Project documents can be found on BLM's ePlanning Sweetwater Project webpage.
On November 1, the BLM released a Record of Decision authorizing the Palen Solar Project, a photovoltaic facility to occupy up to 3,140 acres of BLM-administered public lands approximately 10 miles east of Desert Center in Riverside County, California. The 500-megawatt Palen Solar Project includes a main generation area, on-site substation, switchyard, site security, and an approximately seven-mile single circuit 230-kilovolt generation interconnection transmission line that would deliver power through the Southern California Edison Red Bluff Substation. Project documents are available through the BLM's ePlanning Palen Project webpage.
Finally, on December 20, the BLM completed a Record of Decision for the Ormat Tungsten Mountain Solar Project in Churchill County, Nevada. The project was approved as an amendment to the Tungsten Mountain geothermal lease Operation and Utilization Plan. This project will be an 18 MW photovoltaic solar array occupying approximately 130 acres, and providing power to the Tungsten Mountain geothermal power plant and its supporting well field. The electricity generated by the solar array would be used to maximize the amount of geothermally generated electricity available to the electrical grid. Project documents are available through the BLM's ePlanning Ormat Tungsten Mountain Project webpage.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recent Competitive Leasing Rule for Solar and Wind Energy Development governs solar and wind energy development on public lands. It was published in the Federal Register on December 19th, and went into effect on January 18, 2017. The rule strengthens existing policies and creates a new leasing program that will support renewable energy development. Copies of the rule and a fact sheet explaining the key changes between the proposed and final rules are available on BLM's website.
On January 17th the BLM hosted a presentation on the recent rule, intended to inform members of industry, non-governmental organizations, local, state, and federal regulators, and the general public on the key elements of the new rule.
Presentation slides (PDF, 874 KB) are now available. A recording of the presentation may be available at a later date.
Jayme Lopez, principal author, will host a webinar on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recent Competitive Leasing Rule for Solar and Wind Energy Development. The webinar will take place on Tuesday, January 17th, from 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM EST (10:00 AM to 11:30 AM PST). This webinar, which is intended for members of industry, non-governmental organizations, local, state, and federal regulators, and the general public, will provide an overview of key elements of the new rule.
The rule governs solar and wind energy development on public lands. It was published in the Federal Register on December 19th, and goes into effect on January 18, 2017. The rule strengthens existing policies and creates a new leasing program that will support renewable energy development. Copies of the rule and a fact sheet explaining the key changes between the proposed and final rules are available on BLM's website.
The dial-in number for the webinar is 1-888-850-4523; Passcode: 473080
To register for the webinar, please use the following link:
After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. Please note that this webinar is limited to the first 100 people who register.
On November 30, 2016, the multiagency Avian-Solar Collaborative Working Group (CWG) has released the final Avian-Solar Science Coordination Plan (PDF, 2.0 MB). The objectives of this Plan are to identify and prioritize research on avian-solar interactions needed to better inform decisions on solar siting and permitting, and the implementation of monitoring, minimization, and mitigation measures.
The CWG has also prepared a Fact Sheet to summarize the Science Coordination Plan (PDF, 242 KB).
A summary of substantive changes to the draft Plan (PDF, 120 KB) was also prepared.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has finalized its rule governing solar and wind energy development on public lands, as described in a Press Release issued November 10th. The rule strengthens existing policies and creates a new leasing program that will support renewable energy development through, among other things, competitive leasing processes and incentives to encourage development in suitable areas.
The rule complements the Department's landscape-scale planning efforts, including the Western Solar Plan, California's Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, and Arizona's Restoration Design Energy Project, which were designed to streamline development in areas with high generation potential, while protecting important environmental, cultural, and recreational resources.
The rule will support a full range of development activities anticipated by the BLM across the lands it manages. Its competitive leasing provisions will help development flourish on the 700,000 acres of public lands that have been identified as designated leasing areas (DLAs) in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. Similar provisions in effect in the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone in Nevada enabled the BLM to approve projects in half the time of the current process.
The rule also ensures that the BLM will continue to make progress in permitting outside of DLAs. There, the rule refines the application review process and increases financial certainty by giving developers the option of scheduled rate adjustments and providing for MW capacity fee phase-ins. The rule also allows the BLM to offer lands outside of DLAs competitively; however, the BLM anticipates that most projects in these areas will continue to use the application-by-application process.
Copies of the rule and a fact sheet explaining the key changes between the proposed and final rules are available on BLM's website. The regulations will become effective 30 days after they are published in the Federal Register.
The multiagency Avian-Solar Collaborative Working Group (CWG) has released the draft Avian-Solar Science Plan (PDF, 2.0 MB) for public review. The objectives of this Science Plan are to identify and prioritize research on avian-solar interactions needed to better inform decisions on solar siting and permitting, and the implementation of monitoring, minimization, and mitigation measures.
A public webinar will be held on Wednesday, August 31st from 1:00 – 2:30 PM Pacific Time to present the Science Plan and address initial stakeholder questions. The URL, telephone number, and presentation for the webinar are provided below. If you are interested in attending the public webinar, please RSVP by August 30th to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The CWG will be accepting public comments on the science plan through September 19, 2016. Comments may be submitted to email@example.com.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) would like to announce the release of the Riverside East Solar Energy Zone Long Term Monitoring Strategy. The final monitoring strategy document (PDF, 16.6 MB) is now available.
The Riverside East Long Term Monitoring Strategy will help the BLM understand solar energy development's broad-scale effects on resources such as vegetation, hydrology, and air quality. The information generated through the strategy will help the BLM permit future solar energy projects.
The Riverside East Solar Energy Zone, in eastern Riverside County, was designated as a priority area for utility scale solar energy development in the BLM's 2012 Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement. The area has already seen four utility-scale solar energy projects approved since 2010.
A number of federal and state agencies have joined together to establish a multiagency Avian-Solar Collaborative Working Group (CWG) to address emerging issues related to potential avian-solar impacts. Specifically, the CWG has been established to promote better understanding of avian-solar issues and to develop an Avian-Solar Science Plan that will provide a framework for future research needed to support agency decisions regarding utility-scale solar development.
Agencies participating in the CWG include the U.S. Department of Energy, Solar Energy Technologies Office; Bureau of Land Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; U.S. Geological Survey; and state energy and wildlife agencies from Arizona, California, and Nevada.
Public Workshop: To inform development of the Avian-Solar Science Plan, the agencies will host a public workshop May 10-11, 2016 in Sacramento, CA. The purpose of this workshop will be to share information and get public input regarding (1) the multiagency CWG, (2) related ongoing initiatives, (3) the purpose of the Avian-Solar Science Plan, and (4) preliminary elements of the plan. Additional details regarding the meeting location and times will be provided in the future. If you are interested in attending this workshop, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information: Please see the Multiagency Avian-Solar Collaborative Working Group webpage.
To subscribe to receive emails regarding the CWG activities, including announcements about the release of documents and future public workshops and webinars, please send a request to email@example.com.
On March 2, 2016, as part of President Obama's Climate Action Plan to cut carbon pollution and spur renewable energy development on public lands, the Bureau of Land Management issued a News Release to announce the availability of the draft Solar Regional Mitigation Strategy (SRMS) for three Solar Energy Zones (SEZ) in Colorado, as well as the final SRMSs for three SEZs in Arizona, and for the Dry Lake Valley North SEZ in Nevada. These documents are not National Environmental Policy Act documents or decisions, but are strategy documents that will help inform analyses of specific solar project proposals.
The SRMSs apply a landscape approach to managing SEZs on public lands. They identify natural and sociocultural resources that could be impacted by potential solar development, as well as ways to mitigate any unavoidable impacts off-site. The strategies provide certainty to potential project developers by recommending a per-acre fee that would fund off-site mitigation measures and streamline environmental review for individual projects within the zones.
SEZs were established in BLM's Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for solar energy development, which was finalized in 2012. The PEIS provided a blueprint for utility-scale solar energy permitting in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah by establishing SEZs with access to existing or planned transmission, incentives for development within those SEZs, and a process through which to consider additional zones and solar projects.
The Final Arizona SRMS and Draft Colorado SRMS both cover three SEZs within the respective state. The Final Dry Lake Valley North SEZ SRMS is for the largest (25,069-acres) of the five SEZs in Nevada. The final strategies are effective immediately; the public will have 45 days to comment on the draft Colorado SRMS.
On June 1, 2015, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced the approval of the first three solar energy projects that are within a solar energy zone (SEZ) and subject to the BLM's Solar Energy Program. The three projects are planned to be located on 3,083 acres within the Dry Lake SEZ in Clark County, Nevada. When built, the projects will generate up to 440 megawatts of energy. Through the permitting process established in the Solar Energy Program, the expedited reviews of these three projects were completed in less than 10 months. The project reviews also included consideration of the first regional mitigation strategy for solar energy zone projects.
The new projects — Invenergy's Harry Allen Solar Energy Center, First Solar's Playa Solar Project, and NV Energy's Dry Lake Solar Energy Center — were submitted for approval by the three successful bidders to a competitive auction BLM held on June 30, 2014. The auction was part of the competitive leasing process required for solar energy zones under the terms of the Solar Energy Program.
The BLM has issued a news release discussing the approval of the projects and their significance with respect to BLM's renewable energy development goals.
An update to the list of authorized and first-in-line pending solar applications on Bureau of Land Management (BLM)-administered lands is available through the BLM Solar Energy Program website, on the Pending Solar Applications page. The updated list is current as of April 1, 2015. The list of pending applications will continue to be reduced in number as projects are approved by the BLM, closed/withdrawn by applicants, or rejected/denied by the BLM due to factors such as lack of due diligence.
An updated Map of Authorized and First-in-Line Pending Solar Applications in the Six-State Study Area is also available, as well as updated ArcReader GIS Application and GIS Shapefile downloads of the solar application data. In addition, these data are also available for viewing via the Solar Energy Environmental Mapper tool.
In response to user comments, a new feature has been added to this Solar Energy Program website. The Calendar feature includes Solar Energy Program events and dates relevant to the entire program, as well as events and dates specific to the six states that host solar energy zones. The Calendar is available at http://blmsolar.anl.gov/calendar/ and can also be accessed through the “Calendar” link at the top of each page of this website.
On December 8th, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced the availability of Environmental Assessments for three proposed projects in the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone (SEZ). The Environmental Assessments are available through the BLM Southern Nevada District Office Renewable Energy web page. The Environmental Assessments will be open for public comment through January 8, 2015.
The projects, which propose to generate a combined total of 480 megawatts of electricity on 3,083 acres within the Dry Lake SEZ, are the first to reach this stage of permitting under the Western Solar Plan. The reviews were completed in less than six months, compared to reviews under the previous project-by-project system that took on average 18 to 24 months to complete. The BLM has issued a press release with details about these proposed projects and its Solar Energy Program.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has extended the comment period for the proposed rule that would promote the use of “designated leasing areas” that include the Bureau of Land Management's Solar Energy Zones. The proposed rule would establish competitive processes, terms, and conditions (including rental and bonding requirements) for solar and wind energy development right-of-ways both inside and outside the designated leasing areas and provide incentives for leases in designated leasing areas.
The proposed rule was initially published on September 30, 2014, with a 60-day comment period closing on December 1, 2014. The BLM is extending the comment period for 15 days beyond the end of the initial comment period. As a result of this extension, the comment period will close on December 16, 2014.
The BLM will host a webinar for interested parties on Wednesday, December 3rd, from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time to discuss the competitive leasing proposed rule and answer any questions. The dial-in number for the webinar is: 1-888-324-4391; Passcode 7595414. The URL for the webinar is: http://anl.adobeconnect.com/blmleasing/. Please include your name and organization name (if applicable) in the name field when logging in to the webinar. For more information regarding the webinar, please contact Jayme Lopez by telephone at 202-912-7547, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On September 25, 2014, the Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced a new competitive leasing process by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to help spur solar and wind energy development on public lands in the West. 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 rights-of-way (ROWs) 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 has issued a Press Release describing the proposed rule. The rule is available in a Federal Register notice published September 30, 2014. Publication kicks off a 60-day comment period that closes on December 1, 2014. Documents supporting the draft rule are available on the Competitive Leasing for SEZs page.
Another plan to aid environmentally responsible solar energy development in the West was announced with publication of a Notice of Availability in the Federal Register on September 26th. The draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan is a landscape-level blueprint for renewable energy and conservation covering more than 22 million acres of the California desert. This plan will protect areas important for wildlife, recreation, cultural heritage and other uses while streamlining permitting in areas appropriate for siting of solar, wind, and geothermal energy projects and associated transmission.
The Solar Energy Environmental Mapper (Solar Mapper) is an interactive Web-based mapping tool providing access to information relevant to siting utility-scale solar projects in the southwestern United States, including land use decisions associated with the Bureau of Land Management's Solar Energy Program. The tool requires an active Internet connection. It is compatible with leading, current, web browsers (Chrome or Firefox are recommended; some features do not function consistently in different versions of Internet Explorer).
Solar Mapper was first launched in 2010. Version 2.0 has recently been launched with the following updates:
Webinar demonstrations of Solar Mapper will be offered in the coming months. To receive the latest news about Solar Mapper and upcoming webinars, subscribe to the Solar Mapper E-Mail Service.
As part of the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) ongoing efforts to implement a landscape approach to managing the public lands while developing clean domestic energy resources, the BLM has released its draft Procedural Guidance for Developing Solar Regional Mitigation Strategies for public viewing. The guidance is intended to help BLM managers in preparing mitigation strategies for Solar Energy Zones (SEZs).
In March, the BLM released its Regional Mitigation Strategy for the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone, part of a pilot effort that has informed development of the draft Procedural Guidance (see also the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone Solar Regional Mitigation Project website). The BLM has conducted outreach with a broad representation of stakeholders, including industry, state and local governments, Tribes, and local communities. A workshop on this topic was recently convened in Denver, CO. That workshop and other outreach efforts are not necessarily reflected in the current draft of the Procedural Guidance.
The draft Procedural Guidance document is available through the Solar Regional Mitigation Strategies page of this website.
For more information contact Joe Vieira, Project Manager, BLM Colorado Renewable Energy Program, at 719-246-9966 or email@example.com.
On June 30, 2014, the BLM Nevada State Office held a competitive combined sealed- and oral-bid auction, which resulted in the selection of preferred applicants to develop utility-scale solar energy projects on six parcels across 3,083 acres of the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone. The $5.8 million in high bids represents a 90-fold premium over the aggregate minimum bid. The BLM has issued a press release discussing the auction and its significance with respect to BLM's renewable energy development goals; see also the Dry Lake SEZ Competitive Leasing page on this website.
In conjunction with the auction, the BLM also identified thirteen additional renewable energy projects on public lands in Western states that could meet environmental and administrative requirements for approval by the end of 2015. These thirteen projects include eleven solar projects and two wind projects located in Arizona, California, and Nevada. Two of these solar projects have been accepted by the BLM for consideration under the so-called variance provisions included in the Western Solar Plan. The other nine solar projects are traditional right-of-way actions that were initiated prior to the release of the Western Solar Plan. The list of these projects is available on the 2014-15 Renewable Energy Projects page of the BLM's website.
An update to the list of first-in-line pending solar applications on Bureau of Land Management (BLM)-administered lands is available through the BLM Solar Energy Program website, on the Pending Solar Applications Web page. The updated list is current as of November 1, 2013. The list of pending applications will continue to be reduced in number as projects are closed/withdrawn by applicants, rejected/denied by the BLM due to factors such as lack of due diligence, or approved by the BLM.
An updated Map of Pending and Authorized Solar Applications in the Six-State Study Area is also available, as well as the ability to view the applications in the ArcReader GIS Application, and the GIS Shapefile. In addition, these data are also available for viewing via the Solar Energy Environmental Mapper tool.
On June 27, 2013, a Public Land Order became effective that withdraws 303,900 acres of land within the solar energy zones (SEZs) from location of mining claims that could impede development of solar energy sites. The Public Land Order was published in the Federal Register on July 5, 2013. The lands had already been segregated from the mining laws under temporary measures (see December 17, 2012, Federal Register Notice). The Public Land Order extends the withdrawal for 20 years.
Under the Public Land Order, the public lands in SEZs have been withdrawn, subject to valid existing rights, from settlement, sale, location, or entry under the general land laws, including the mining laws.
On June 13, 2013, the BLM issued Instruction Memorandum (IM) 2013-142, giving instructions on interim regional mitigation policy to BLM Resource Program managers.
Additionally, the BLM has made available its draft policy on mitigation. This draft interim policy (titled Draft – Regional Mitigation, Manual Section 1794) establishes a regional approach to mitigation and focuses on achieving the highest benefit to help offset the impacts of projects on Federal lands. The draft manual (PDF, 501 KB) is available as an attachment to IM 2013-142.