The US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has announced that it aims to approve the construction of 39 utility-scale solar projects totaling more than 29 GW of plant capacity on federal public lands in six western states through third quarter of 2025.
“The demand for renewable energy has never been greater,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, adding that the projects’ cost-effectiveness, technological advancements, and tremendous economic potential make them a promising path for diversifying the national energy portfolio, combating climate change, and investing in communities.
Last week, the Department of Interior (DoI) announced a series of steps aimed at streamlining infrastructure permitting coordination and facilitating environmental reviews between fiscal years 2021 and 2025, in order to support the development of a minimum 25 GW of new geothermal, solar, and wind capacity on public lands.
Public lands overseen by the BLM have the potential to make a major contribution to the nation’s renewable energy portfolio, according to a government document. The BLM oversees over 245 million acres of public land, many of which have significant solar, wind, and geothermal energy potential.
To date, the BLM has approved over 120 renewable energy projects on public land, totaling over 12,000 megawatts of generating capacity. The BLM also helps non-federal renewable energy development by granting permits to electricity transmission lines that link clean energy to the grid.
BLM has approved 12 projects totaling 2.9 GW in fiscal year 2021, which runs from October 1 to September 30, 2022, a 35% increase over the previous year.
With 28 applicant-led proposals for solar projects and 11 bureau-initiated lease offerings for so-called “solar energy zones” in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah, solar represents the vast majority of “priority” renewables projects currently undergoing environmental reviews.
The DoI estimated that BLM will allow 3.6 GW of capacity in fiscal year 2022, 5.6 GW in fiscal year 2023, 13.5 GW in fiscal year 2024, and 6.9 GW in fiscal year 2025.