Bureau of Land Management Solar Energy Permitting and Program Resources
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2012 Western Solar Plan Design Features

The 2012 Western Solar Plan programmatic design features are required measures or procedures designed to avoid, minimize, and/or mitigate potential adverse impacts from solar energy development.

The Programmatic Design Features are required for all projects processed under the 2012 Western Solar Plan (that is, utility-scale right-of-way (ROW) applications within the six-state 2012 Solar PEIS study area — if within solar energy zones [SEZs], applies to applications filed after June 30, 2009; if within variance areas, applies to applications filed after October 28, 2011). The 2012 Western Solar Plan also does not apply to applications within the DRECP area which are subject to conservation and management actions. Applications in Arizona are subject to both the 2012 Solar PEIS Design Features and additional design features. Click on the PDF links to the right to view the Programmatic Design Features, grouped by Resource Areas addressed.

An additional set of SEZ-specific design features is applicable to applications within individual SEZs designated through the 2012 Western Solar Plan and subsequent planning efforts. (Note: Under the regulations at 43 CFR 2800 and subparts [as amended in 2017], the SEZs are now designated leasing areas [DLAs]).

View the SEZ-Specific Design Features on individual SEZ pages for example, the Brenda SEZ page.

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 2010 Draft and 2012 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 within the 2012 Western Solar Plan six-state study area are required to avoid, minimize, and/or mitigate the impacts associated with their projects. While the programmatic design features address utility-scale solar energy projects comprehensively, the land use plan decisions made through the 2012 Western Solar Plan (e.g., exclusions and SEZs) are only 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 programmatic 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.

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 ROW application for solar energy development, the BLM requires 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.