Applications for utility-scale solar energy facilities are authorized as ROWs under Title V of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) and 43 CFR Part 2800. Applications submitted to the BLM for utility-scale solar energy development use Form SF-299, Application for Transportation and Utility Systems and Facilities on Federal Land, consistent with the requirements of 43 CFR Part 2804.
The Secretary of the Interior, with respect to public lands, is authorized to grant, issue, or renew ROWs over, upon, under, or through such lands for systems for generation, transmission, and distribution of electric energy (43 USC 1761(a)(4)). The term "ROW," as defined by FLPMA, includes an easement, lease, permit, or license to occupy, use, or traverse public lands (43 USC 1702(f)). BLM ROW authorizations include the solar collectors, tower, turbine generator, fossil-fired generator for hybrid systems, thermal storage, access roads, electrical and transmission facilities, and other testing and support facilities. An authorization for a utility-scale solar facility also typically includes approval of ancillary facilities such as roads, transmission lines, interconnection facilities, etc. In some cases, a separate ROW authorization(s) may be needed for ancillary facilities such as long linear facilities (e.g., transmission lines and access roads) or more distant interconnection facilities.
Solar ROW applications are processed by BLM Field Office and Renewable Energy Coordination Office staff. The decision to grant a ROW is made by the BLM Authorized Officer in accordance with Title V of the FLPMA. More information on the BLM’s general ROW program, policies and procedures is available on the BLM's National ROW Web page.
The BLM issued new ROW regulations (43 CFR Part 2800) on December 19, 2016 to further facilitate solar energy development on BLM-administered public lands and to establish competitive procedures to offer solar energy ROW leases for development inside of “designated leasing areas” (DLAs; the regulations state that solar energy zones (SEZs) are DLAs for solar development). These regulations now provide for the issuance of a solar energy ROW “grant” (43 CFR 2804) by the BLM in response to a ROW application on lands outside of DLAs and the issuance of a solar energy ROW “lease” (43 CFR 2809) in response to a competitive offer of lands by the BLM for solar energy development within DLAs.
A DLA is defined by the regulations (43 CFR 2801.5) as “a parcel of land with specific boundaries identified by the BLM land use planning process as being a preferred location for solar ... energy development that may be offered competitively”. Examples of DLAs for solar energy include SEZs designated through the Solar PEIS and ROD; Renewable Energy Development Areas (REDAs) designated through the BLM Arizona Restoration Design Energy Project (REDP) planning process; and Development Focus Areas (DFAs) designated through BLM's California Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) planning process.