BLM>California>What We Do>Energy>Solar
Print Page


Photovoltaic panels used to collect solar energy.
Photovoltaic panels used to collect solar energy.

The California Desert region holds some of the highest concentrations of solar energy potential in the United States. 

On public lands, solar development for large-scale electricity projects is just beginning, but the future looks bright.  The BLM received a flood of solar applications in the late 2000s. In late 2010, the BLM approved the first utility-scale solar energy projects on public lands. While many speculative applications have since been closed, the BLM has continued to approve beneficial projects.  All are carefully considered through detailed environmental reviews with full public involvement.

Applicants have submitted proposals for a variety of solar technologies.  These can be generally described as follows:

  • Photovoltaic technology uses solar cells packaged together in large arrays to convert sunlight directly into electricity. 
  • Parabolic trough technology uses rows of parabolic mirrors with an absorber tube to concentrate energy into a thermal power plant. 
  • Power tower technology uses a central tower (300-450 feet in height) with a field of mirrors to concentrate energy into a thermal power plant.

The BLM and Department of Energy have teamed up to direct solar energy development in the West through the Western Solar Plan.  The agencies have have identified 19 Solar Energy Zones, including three in California, in which to prioritize solar energy development. The Western Solar Plan Record of Decision was released in October 2012.

As part of the Western Solar Plan, BLM California is piloting the development of a long term monitoring and adaptive management strategy in the Riverside East Solar Energy Zone.

Additional Information on solar projects is available from the California Energy Commission Website.

A new solar technology using a central power tower in the middle of a circle of mirrors.
A solar technology using a central power tower in the middle of a circle of mirrors.

Demands in California are generating new interest in renewable energy leasing and development
on federal lands.

BLM Applications Map 

BLM Applications Table

Quick Facts (March 2014)

  • Processing 15 applications
    • 84,968 acres
  • Approved 7 projects
    • 3,338 megawatts 

Sunrise over the horizon in the opening scene of Sunny to Share, a Funny.bytes feature.

A solar panel is late for work - - but joins his pals to help create electric power.  Watch Funny.bytes feature Sunny to Share to learn more.

Funny.bytes is an occasional look at the lighter side of BLM issues.