Bureau of Land Management Solar Energy Program Western Solar Plan
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Design Features

Design features are required measures or procedures designed to avoid, minimize, and/or mitigate potential adverse impacts from solar energy development.

Design features are mitigation requirements that have been incorporated into BLM's Solar Energy Program to avoid, minimize, and/or mitigate adverse impacts. The BLM's decision included amending land use plans in the six-state study area with the following:

  1. Programmatic design features that will be required for all utility-scale solar energy projects on BLM-administered lands.
    View the Programmatic Design Features in the PDFs on the right.
  2. Solar energy zone (SEZ)-specific design features that will be required for projects in individual SEZs.
    View the SEZ-Specific Design Features on individual SEZ pages.

Programmatic Design Features

The programmatic design features address the broad possible range of direct and indirect impacts that may result from utility-scale solar energy development as described in the Draft and Final Solar PEIS (Chapter 5). Utility-scale solar energy development includes solar generation facilities as well as associated supporting infrastructure (e.g., transmission facilities and roads).

Applicants seeking approvals to construct utility-scale solar energy projects on BLM-administered lands will be required to avoid, minimize, and/or mitigate the impacts associated with their projects. While the programmatic design features that follow address utility-scale solar energy projects comprehensively, the land use plan decisions to be made through the Solar PEIS Record of Decision (ROD) (e.g., exclusions and SEZs) will only be applicable to utility-scale solar energy generation facilities.

Application of Programmatic Design Features

Application of the programmatic design features is intended to result in the avoidance, minimization, and/or mitigation of potential resource conflicts. Because of site-specific circumstances, not all design features as written will apply to all projects (e.g., a resource is not present on a given site).

Some design features may require variations from what is described (e.g., a larger or smaller protective area). Applicants will be required to work with the BLM to apply variations in the design features and to consider options for avoidance, minimization, and/or mitigation of potential resource conflicts. Variations in programmatic design features will require appropriate analysis and disclosure as part of individual project authorizations.

Programmatic design features that do not apply to a given project should be documented in the project case file along with the appropriate rationale. Mitigation measures in addition to the programmatic design features also may be identified and required during individual project development and environmental review.

The programmatic design features will apply to all utility-scale solar energy projects on BLM-administered lands, whether those projects are within variance areas or SEZs. On the basis of the extensive upfront data collection and environmental analysis that have been completed for SEZs, the BLM expects that many of the requirements associated with programmatic design features will be met or substantially met for lands in SEZs. Further, because SEZs have been sited to avoid potential resource conflicts, the BLM expects that many design features will not be triggered.

Federal, State, and Local Requirements

The programmatic design features are not intended to be duplicative of other Federal, State, and/or local requirements. In the early stages of siting and design, project developers should coordinate with appropriate Federal, State, and local agencies to determine what plans, permits, and/or approvals may be needed. The BLM will work with project developers to consolidate multi-jurisdictional requirements wherever possible. Applicants will not be expected to study resources or collect data beyond what is necessary to disclose and provide knowledge of reasonable avoidance, minimization, and/or mitigation of impacts from a proposed project.

Disclosure of Planning and Mitigation Activities

As part of a project Plan of Development (POD) that is submitted to the BLM with a right-of-way (ROW) application for solar energy development, the BLM will require that applicable planning and mitigation activities specified through the programmatic design features be identified and disclosed. In situations where similar activities are required to meet other Federal, State, and/or local permitting requirements, the BLM encourages developers to address these duplicative requirements in separate submittals to those agencies and append this information to their POD. Examples of such information that may be required for a separate permitting action and appended to the POD include a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan, Dust Abatement Plan, and Decommissioning and Site Reclamation Plan.

Updated: 8/2/2013