Variance areas are made up of Bureau of Land Management (BLM)-administered lands in the six-state 2012 Western Solar Plan area that are outside of solar energy zones (SEZs) (now designated leasing areas) and not otherwise excluded from development under the 2012 Western Solar Plan. The BLM will consider right-of-way (ROW) applications for utility-scale solar energy development in variance areas on a case-by-case basis based on environmental considerations; coordination with appropriate Federal, State, and local agencies and tribes; and public outreach. This evaluation is referred to as the variance process. This process was developed to provide flexibility in making lands outside of designated leasing areas potentially available for utility-scale solar energy development.
Note that within the DRECP area in California, Variance Process Lands (VPLs) have replaced the Variance Areas identified in the 2012 Western Solar Plan. Variance Lands outside of the DRECP area remain as identified in the 2012 Western Solar Plan.
Maps showing variance areas in the six-state study area, as of publication of the 2012 Western Solar Plan are available on the Maps page. Changes in Land Use Plans over time may result in changes to Exclusion and Variance areas.
The permitting processes for solar energy ROW grants outside of designated leasing areas (including variance areas) provide additional information.