Final rules for renewable energy development on public lands


The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released final rules governing the leasing and rental of renewable energy projects sited on public lands. The rules were developed with consultation from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

The Energy Act of 2020 authorized BLM to reduce rents and capacity fees to support solar and wind development. The final ruling codifies further reductions in acreage-based rents and reduces capacity fees by 80% compared to 2016 rules. The low-rent is extended through 2035 and then transitions to a 20% reduction for 2038 and beyond. The rule will go into effect 60 days after publication in the federal register.

The rule also establishes incentives through additional fee reductions for solar and wind energy developments that use “Project Labor Agreements” or domestic materials. Project Labor Agreements promote good paying jobs and help ensure efficiency and safety during construction. BLM said using domestic materials promotes the use of American-made products in solar and wind energy projects and avoids the risk of international supply chain shocks.

BLM formalized and streamlined its application and permitting process for solar and wind projects with the ruling. It also enshrined opportunities for public input on project development, including public meetings for every project application, ensuring that projects are receiving input from the start and giving developers an opportunity to address any issues from the outset.

The rule provides the opportunity to make public lands inside designated leasing areas available for leasing by application without requiring a competitive process. However, BLM maintains discretion to conduct competitive processes on its own initiative on all available lands and focus such processes on places where competitive interest exists.

SEIA said the new rules will:

  • Reduce rents and fees for renewable energy projects through 2035 and eliminate duplicative payments for renewable energy developers;
  • Extend lease terms for renewable projects to 50 years;
  • Remove competitive leasing requirements in priority development areas; and  
  • Make it easier to develop standalone energy storage projects on public lands.

“Today the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) codified SEIA’s recommendations to make it faster, easier, and cheaper to build clean energy projects on public lands,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and chief executive officer, SEIA. “We need to pull every lever we can to efficiently deploy clean energy, and our nation’s public lands remain an untapped resource. BLM’s new rules are a smart step forward and will help to reverse decades of preferential treatment for fossil fuel interests.”

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