As part of its commitment to support and inspire a clean energy transition, the Department of the Interior announced a series of steps taken to advance the Biden-Harris administration’s goal to permit 25 gigawatts of renewable power on public lands by 2025. These efforts support the Department’s strategy to responsibly unlock and deliver the full potential of renewable energy on our public lands and waters, while creating good-paying union jobs and reducing emissions.
“The Department of the Interior continues to make significant progress in our efforts to spur a clean energy revolution, strengthen and decarbonize the nation’s economy, and help communities transition to a clean energy future,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “The demand for renewable energy has never been greater. The technological advances, increased interest, cost effectiveness, and tremendous economic potential make these projects a promising path for diversifying our national energy portfolio, while at the same time combatting climate change and investing in communities.”
“Our nation’s leaders have asked for timely action on renewables, and the Biden-Harris administration is delivering,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Land and Minerals Management Laura Daniel-Davis. “The Bureau of Land Management’s energy experts understand the demand and the need to ensure environmentally sound development of renewable energy on these lands. We’re on the path to build upon the extraordinary work already being done.”
To help further Congress’s direction to permit 25,000 megawatts of solar, wind, and geothermal energy production on public lands no later than 2025, and to help ensure the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035, this month the Bureau of Land Management (BLM):
- Forecasted additional renewable energy activity. A newly submitted report to Congress, directed by the Energy Act of 2020, outlines significant progress on clean energy deployment and includes a forecast of renewable energy activity across the West. The report demonstrates that the BLM increased renewable energy permitting activities by 35 percent in fiscal year 2021 compared to fiscal year 2020. The bureau authorized 12 projects on public lands that directly support development of 2,890 megawatts of onshore wind, solar, and geothermal energy generation capacity in fiscal year 2021. The BLM also worked to enhance the coordination of permitting for infrastructure for renewables, including through improved agreements with other federal agencies and redoubling efforts on early coordination with Tribal Nations, state and local governments, local communities, and conservation groups. As the agency continues to ramp-up its renewable energy program, it anticipates supporting nearly 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy capacity by the end of 2023, and more in 2024.
- Identified improvements to energy corridors in the West. In a second report, the BLM identified potential improvements to corridors for electrical transmission lines that balance the need for delivering clean energy with protecting America’s lands, water, and wildlife habitat. These energy corridors, referred to as the West-wide Energy Corridors, stretch across 11 contiguous Western states. The report will guide future planning and use of these energy corridors to increase renewable energy production on federal lands while ensuring robust protection for public lands, waters, and biodiversity and the creation of good-paying jobs.
- Renewed and updated a policy that will enable staff to better screen and prioritize solar and wind energy projects on public lands. Last week, the BLM released a policy to help screen and prioritize proposed solar and wind projects on public lands. The policy, an Instruction Memorandum entitled “Initial Screening and Prioritization for Solar and Wind Energy Applications and Nominations/Expressions of Interests,” will help accelerate clean energy development and conserve America’s most valuable natural and cultural resources. The policy gives BLM staff initial screening measures and standardized prioritization methodologies for solar and wind right-of-way grant applications and right-of-way lease nominations on public lands. As a result, staff can focus on and reach decisions quicker for those projects with the greatest technical and financial feasibility and the least anticipated natural and cultural resource conflicts.
- Advanced renewable energy projects to help create jobs.
- This month, the BLM published a Notice of Competitive Offer Notice for Solar Energy Development on Public Lands in Clark County, Nevada, within the Dry Lake East Solar Energy Zone Leasing Area. This Notice is BLM’s third published in the past six months. The BLM also carried out a lease sale for geothermal power in Utah, which resulted in bids on 8 of 11 available parcels.
- This week, the BLM also awarded its first competitive leases for solar in Utah. The leases are being awarded to Minersville Solar Energy LLC for three parcels, encompassing more than 4,800 acres of BLM-managed public lands. If the leases are fully developed, the solar energy facilities could generate more than 600 megawatts of electricity and create approximately 200 construction jobs and 15 operations positions, totaling more than $10 million in salaries.
BLM-managed public lands have the potential to contribute significantly to the nation’s renewable energy portfolio. The BLM manages roughly 245 million acres of public lands, including many that have substantial solar, wind, and geothermal energy potential. To date, the BLM has approved over 120 renewable energy projects on public land that have a combined generating capacity of over 12,000 megawatts. The BLM also plays a key role in support of non-federal renewable energy development through permitting electricity transmission lines for connecting clean energy to the grid.
President Biden’s fiscal year 2023 budget request includes more than $49 million in the BLM’s Renewable Energy Management program and an additional $11 million in the Resource Management Planning program to support siting, leasing, and processing rights-of-way applications for renewable energy projects and transmissions lines.
The BLM’s ongoing work to facilitate renewable energy comes amid increasing calls for clean energy from public and private sectors and follows on the heels of establishing Renewable Energy Coordination Offices across the West to facilitate improved permitting coordination for renewable energy projects. The BLM is actively working on filling dozens of vital positions to support renewable energy efforts in BLM’s headquarters and throughout the West. Positions include but are not limited to realty specialists, project managers, wildlife biologists, archaeologists/cultural resources specialists, geologists/fluid mineral specialists, planners, natural resource specialists, GIS specialists, and hydrologists.