Bureau of Land Management Solar Energy Program Western Solar Plan
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Identification Protocol for New or Expanded SEZs

The BLM will identify new or expanded SEZs through a four-step process to occur at least once every 5 years.

Protocol Overview

The BLM will identify new or expanded solar energy zones (SEZs) in the context of existing solar market conditions, existing and planned transmission systems, and new (or existing) State or Federal policies affecting the level and location of utility-scale solar energy development. The BLM will assess the need for new or expanded SEZs at least once every 5 years in each of the six states covered by the Solar PEIS.

The process to identify new or expanded SEZs will be open and transparent, with opportunities for substantial involvement of multiple stakeholders. The BLM will identify new or expanded SEZs at the State or field office level as an individual land use planning effort or as part of an ongoing land use plan revision. In all cases, the planning of new or expanded SEZs will tier from the Solar PEIS and utilize information carried forward from the PEIS to assist in the analyses. It is BLM’s goal to complete the work to identify new SEZs and amend applicable land use plans within 12 to 18 months of initiating such efforts.

Steps in SEZ Assessment Process

The BLM will use the following criteria when considering whether to identify new or expanded SEZs. In most situations, SEZs should be:

  • Relatively large areas that provide highly suitable locations for utility-scale solar energy development,
  • Locations where solar energy development is economically and technically feasible,
  • Locations where there is good potential for connecting new electricity-generating plants to the transmission distribution system, and
  • Locations where there is generally low resource conflict.

The following four steps highlight a sequential process for identifying potential new or expanded SEZs:

  1. Assess the demand for new or expanded SEZs;
  2. Establish technical and economic suitability criteria to identify locations where solar energy development is feasible;
  3. Apply environmental, cultural, and other screening criteria to find potential SEZs with low natural, cultural, and visual resource conflicts; and
  4. Analyze proposed SEZs through a planning and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process to make finer-scale adjustments and decisions regarding SEZs.
Updated: 7/26/2013