The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Department of Interior have approved the first three solar power farms on federal lands in Nevada under the BLM’s streamlined Solar Energy Zones permitting process. The new solar projects will generate 440 megawatts of solar power when they are completed and online.
The projects are Invenergy’s Harry Allen Solar Energy Center, First Solar’s Playa Solar Project, and NV Energy’s Dry Lake Solar Energy Center. The companies won competitive bids during an auction on June 30. They will lease the lands in the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone, paying BLM $5.8 million. The projects are part of the Western Solar Plan.
“Today’s announcement realizes the promise of the Western Solar Plan and reinforces the BLM’s commitment to smart-from-the-start renewable energy development in the West,” said BLM Director Neil Kornze. “Projects like these demonstrate that regional planning and mitigation can achieve much faster permitting times and better outcomes. The Western Solar Plan provides a win-win approach for communities and for our public lands.”
The BLM’s Solar Energy Zones are public lands across the U.S. Southwest that have already been evaluated for solar projects, including assuring that the projects will not impact any endangered species, for instance. The zones have the highest solar resources in the region and pose the lowest potential conflicts. As such the BLM is able to fully vet and evaluate the projects in a shorter time. In this case it tool the agency less than 10 months to approve them. Prior to implementing the system, BLM said it would have taken more than twice as long to evaluate and approve the projects.
“Through thoughtful planning and upfront public participation, these solar projects demonstrate we can reduce permitting times, create certainty for energy developers, and achieve better outcomes for communities and the environment,” said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. “Through a landscape-level approach, we are cutting carbon pollution and creating jobs through responsible solar development on our public lands.” The projects are anticipated to create 1,900 construction jobs.
The BLM has designated 19 Solar Energy Zones. If all are developed they could produce roughly 27 gigawatts of solar electricity—which could power about 8 million homes. BLM has now approved 55 renewable energy projects on its lands since 2009. If all are built out they will add 14.6 gigawatts of renewable energy to the U.S. The Solar Energy Zones are part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which was announced in June 2013.Tweet