BLM Issues Land Order to Protect Solar Energy Zones

on July 12, 2013 at 12:00 PM


BLM has issued a land order to segregate federal lands from new mining claims for solar energy development across six western states.

On July 5, 2013, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approved a Public Land Order that withdraws 303,900 acres of federal land identified for solar energy development from new mining claims for 20 years.  The lands are located in 17 Solar Energy Zones (SEZs) established by the Department of Interior (DOI) in 2012 under the western solar plan to promote commercial-scale solar energy development on BLM-managed lands in six western states – Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah.

The Order implements the western solar plan recommendation to segregate federal lands comprising SEZs from potentially conflicting uses for 20 years, extending the period of existing temporary measures.  In April, BLM issued a regulation to temporarily withdraw the lands from mining claims, finalizing a 2011 interim regulation to segregate federal land identified for renewable energy development from mining claims and land appropriations for two years.  SEZs comprise lands that are apt for solar energy projects due to their resource potential, accessibility to transmission facilities, and lower environmental and cultural impacts.

BLM is responsible for managing 245 million acres of federal land under the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act.  Since 2009, DOE has approved 25 utility-scale solar projects, nine wind farms, and 11 geothermal facilities that could potentially supply energy to 4.4 million homes and support approximately 17,000 jobs.  The 25 solar projects have a planned capacity of more than 8 GW capable of supplying energy to more than 2.4 million homes.

BLM’s move is in line with President Obama’s recently unveiled climate agenda that sets a goal to double renewable electricity generation by 2020, directing DOE to issue permits for 10 GW of renewable energy projects by that year.

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