The BLM will assess the demand for new or expanded solar energy zones (SEZs) at least once every 5 years or in response to a petition.
The BLM will assess the demand for new or expanded SEZs at least once every 5 years in each of the six states covered by the Solar Energy Program. The assessment of demand may take place as part of the regular land use planning process or as a separate effort to determine the role BLM-managed lands should play in broader energy and climate goals. While Federal, State, tribal, and local stakeholder involvement will be essential to the process, BLM State Directors will ultimately be responsible for making the determination whether additional SEZ acreage is needed. Acknowledging that significant changes can occur in the interim between assessments, the BLM will also provide for an assessment triggered by a petition process.
Petitions for new or expanded SEZs must be submitted in writing to the appropriate BLM State Director with documentation supporting the request. Petitions must have a rational basis and should be linked to factors such as policy, environmental, and/or market changes (e.g., increase in state or national renewable standards, development of new transmission capacity, economic development, population growth, or availability of financial incentives).
Developers, environmental stakeholders, local and State governments, industry associations, and others may collectively or individually petition the BLM to consider specific areas for new or expanded SEZs. Petitioners may also request changes in already identified SEZs, such as eliminating or revising boundaries due to changes in the status of species or critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In addition to the petition process, the public may also raise the need for new or modified SEZs through the scoping process for individual land use plans.
When considering the demand for new or expanded SEZs, the BLM will take into consideration relevant national policy goals and trends in the solar market. The BLM will rely on outside expert consultation, such as DOE and State energy offices, regarding electricity demand, markets, and renewable energy policies. Utility-approved plans, State public utility forecasts, and regional planning outcomes, such as those originating with the California Independent System Operator (CISO) and the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC), can all provide useful input into BLM's determination of demand for additional SEZ acreage
The BLM will also consider the availability of land in existing SEZs when it evaluates the need for new or expanded SEZs. The BLM's assessment of demand may require the development of new State-based Reasonably Foreseeable Development Scenarios that incorporate new Federal or State policies affecting projections.