U.S. identified land that could support 100 GW of federal solar infrastructure


The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) oversees nearly 250 million acres of land, most in the western half of the country. In 2012, the BLM worked with the Obama administration to flag potential sites in the western U.S. to develop large-scale, federally managed solar. It identified 1,400 square miles of public land, which could support 100 GW of solar.

That figure would nearly double the installed capacity of the United States. Yet today, a minute amount of solar PV infrastructure is federally managed for the public.

However, this may soon be set to change, as BLM works with the Biden administration to revive some of the Obama-era investigations into such projects. This week, BLM held a call to nominate land for solar development across Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico, with a combined area of 140 square miles. The agency’s director Tracy Stone-Manning said officials are actively evaluating 40 large-scale projects in identified public lands.

Progress has already begun on this front as BLM approved the construction of the Arica and Victory Pass solar projects in California. The two have a planned combined capacity of 465 MW solar, 400 MW battery energy storage. The projects represent a $689 million investment and an estimated $5.9 million in annual operational economic benefit.

The Central Valley Solar Ranch.
Image: Bureau of Land Management

Clearway Energy Group is slated to construct, operate, maintain, and decommission the two facilities. The projects are developed as part of the BLM’s Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, which seeks to conserve desert ecosystems and recreational areas while expanding decarbonized energy in California.

Officials said that the further approval of a 500 MW project in California called Oberon is expected in the coming days.

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