“This new rule not only provides a strong foundation for the future of energy development on America’s public lands, but is an important and exciting milestone in our ongoing efforts to tap the vast solar and wind energy resources across the country,” said Secretary Jewell. “Through a landscape-level approach, we are facilitating responsible renewable energy development in the right places, creating jobs and cutting carbon pollution for the benefit of all Americans.”
The rule formalizes key aspects of the BLM’s existing Smart from the Start approach to renewable energy development. Notably, the rule:
The rule complements the Department’s landscape-scale planning efforts, including the Western Solar Plan, California’s Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, and Arizona’s Restoration Design Energy Project, which were designed to streamline development in areas with high generation potential, while protecting important environmental, cultural and recreational resources.
The President’s Climate Action Plan calls on Interior to permit 20,000 MW of renewable power by 2020. Since 2009, Interior has approved 60 utility-scale renewable energy projects on public lands, including 36 solar, 11 wind and 13 geothermal projects and associated transmission infrastructure that could support nearly 15,500 megawatts of renewable energy capacity, or enough to power approximately 5.1 million homes.
“The BLM is incredibly proud of the work we’ve done over the last eight years supporting wind and solar development,” added BLM Director Neil Kornze. “We went from only a handful of approved projects in 2008 to a robust program with over 15,000 MW approved, six times the amount we had approved in the 25 prior years.”
The rule will support the full range of development activities anticipated by the BLM across the lands it manages. The rule’s competitive leasing provisions will help renewable energy development flourish on the 700,000 acres of public lands that have been identified in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. The regulations will become effective 30 days after they are published in the Federal Register.
The rule refines the application review process and increases financial certainty by giving developers the option to lock in in fixed rate adjustments and providing for MW capacity fee phase-ins. The rule also allows the BLM to offer lands outside of DLAs competitively; however, the BLM anticipates that most projects in these areas will continue to use the application-by-application process.
Copies of the signed rule and a fact sheet explaining the key changes between the proposed and final rules are available on BLM’s website. The BLM intends to schedule additional information sessions as part of the implementation process for the rule.