BLM Arizona is Renewable Ready
Renewable Ready means that BLM Arizona has taken significant steps to make public lands available for utility-scale renewable energy projects. A portion of the 12.2 million acres managed by the BLM have been identified as suitable for solar, wind, and transmission projects.
There are five elements to BLM Arizona's Renewable Ready status:
- Solar energy zones (SEZ)
- Renewable energy development areas (REDA)
- Mitigation plan to compensate for natural and cultural resource conflicts
- Development of permitted projects
- Transmission line development
Solar Energy Zones
The BLM has established solar energy zones in six states, including Arizona. The BLM defines a SEZ as an area well suited for utility-scale production of solar energy. The SEZs are designed to be priority locations for developing solar energy and associated transmission infrastructure.
Arizona has three SEZs, which are managed under terms of the BLM’s Western Solar Plan:
If fully developed, the Arizona SEZs have the capacity to provide about 1,100 megawatts of electricity.
The BLM is in the process of drafting a rule identifying a competitive leasing process for rights to develop solar projects in the SEZs.
Renewable Energy Development Areas
Renewable energy developments on public lands in Arizona are not limited to the SEZs. The Western Solar Plan provides for variance and exclusion lands. Development will not be allowed on exclusion lands, but variance lands may be considered for solar energy development.
Included in the Arizona variance lands are 192,100 acres that have been identified as potentially suitable for solar or wind development. These lands are in parcels ranging from 5 acres to about 20,000 acres. BLM Arizona calls them renewable energy development areas, or REDAs.
The REDAs are near transmission lines or designated corridors, close to population centers or industrial areas, and have been analyzed for potential impacts on groundwater availability. These lands also have few known resource conflicts or have been previously disturbed, such as abandoned and reclaimed mines. REDAs are available for solar or wind energy development at a variety of scales. They could provide 24,000 megawatts of electricity at peak capacity if fully developed for solar.
Because the BLM has done a preliminary screening on the REDAs, interested renewable energy developers can start their research and planning in areas with the best potential for a successful outcome.
BLM Arizona has amended eight land use plans identifying REDAs as the places where renewable energy development is most suitable on BLM land.
BLM Arizona is applying the principles outlined by national BLM directives to consider regions as a whole in establishing mitigation policy. The Solar Regional Mitigation Strategy (SRMS) program follows best practices developed and employed by BLM Nevada in its mitigation plan for the Dry Lake SEZ.
Under the strategy, BLM Arizona is considering the potential impacts that utility-scale energy projects would create within the SEZs and surrounding areas. The BLM Arizona SRMS
program is designed to identify potential impacts on natural resources in advance of an applicant seeking to build on the land. The strategy will help steer applicants away from conflicts or provide a means of offsetting impacts through compensation elsewhere.
The strategy also proposes to set a per-acre fee for developers that would fund agreed-upon mitigation measures. The industry favors this practice because potential costs are identified before developers propose a project on public land.
BLM Arizona has approved construction of Sonoran Solar in Maricopa County, Quartzsite Solar in La Paz County and the Mohave County Wind Farm. Construction has not started on these projects because their proponents have not secured power purchase agreements to sell the electricity that would be produced. BLM Arizona has one additional solar project application, and the Dry Lake Wind Farm is operating on BLM and Arizona State Trust Lands in northeastern Arizona.
Work could begin on the approved projects in a relatively short time.
Utility-scale renewable energy projects are only practical if there are means of transmitting the power to markets. Because the BLM manages broad expanses of land in the western United States, any major transmission line is likely to cross BLM lands.
BLM Arizona is assisting BLM New Mexico in planning for the SunZia Energy and the Southline Transmission Line projects. Each of these projects is proposed to begin in New Mexico and extend into Arizona.
project is a proposed 515-mile, 500kV electrical transmission line from Lincoln County, New Mexico, to Pinal County, Arizona. It is planned as a means of carrying energy from New Mexico to load centers elsewhere in the West, fostering the development of wind, solar, and geothermal generation along its route.
is proposed as a 360-mile, 345kV/230kV transmission line that would run from south-central New Mexico to northwest of Tucson. Of that stretch, 225 miles of 345kVwould be a new line from south of Las Cruces, N.M, to southeastern Arizona. An additional 130 miles in Arizona would be a rebuild of an existing line.
Arizona Public Service (APS) is micrositing the Sun Valley to Morgan
38-mile 230/345kV transmission line. Construction is planned for 2016. The transmission line will increase reliability of the Phoenix area grid and contribute to the overall transfer of energy by, ultimately, connecting to the Delaney substation, a central hub that connects the east-west grid to California.
APS in 2015 completed the 110-mile-long Hassayampa to North Gila II line. It will increase electrical capacity from the Palo Verde complex to Yuma and southern California.
BLM Arizona follows the guidelines of the Western Solar Plan and the Wind Energy Development PEIS, in designating lands for renewable energy development.
For information about BLM Arizona’s renewable energy program, contact
Supervising Project Manager
Renewable Energy Coordination Office
1 North Central Avenue, Suite 800
Phoenix, AZ 85004