U.S. government identifies 22 million acres for solar in western states

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The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has released a draft analysis of the Utility-Scale Solar Energy Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS), also known as the Western Solar Plan. It is designed to guide responsible solar development on public lands.

First published in 2012, the plan originally identified areas in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah with high solar potential and low resource conflicts. The new document refines the analysis in the original six states and expands it to include Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming.

It identifies 22 million acres across the 11 states that are best suited for solar development.

The document calls for solar development to be focused on areas with fewer sensitive resources, less conflict with other uses of public lands, and close proximity to transmission lines, having identified 200,000 acres of land near existing transmission infrastructure.

Ben Norris, vice president of regulatory affairs at the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), said the BLM’s proposal is a “big step in the right direction and recognizes the key role solar plays in our energy economy.”

“Under the current policy, there are at least 80 million acres of federal lands open to oil and gas development, which is 100 times the amount of public land available for solar,” he added. “SEIA has been advocating for changes to the Solar PEIS for over 12 years and appreciates BLM’s extensive efforts to gather stakeholder feedback and make revisions that balance development and conservation. We will continue to urge the Administration to streamline permitting and harness the federal lands portfolio to supercharge job creation, promote energy security, and improve conservation outcomes.”

The BLM also announced the next steps on several renewable projects in Arizona, California and Nevada, representing more than 1,700 MW of potential solar generation.

The BLM has approved 47 clean energy projects, or enough to power more than 3.5 million homes, under the Biden administration.

In December, the SEIA predicted that the United States added 33 GW of solar capacity across the country in 2023.

 

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