The BLM has the delegated authority for leasing 245 million acres of public lands (including 104 million acres of National Forest managed by the U.S. Forest Service) with geothermal potential in 11 western States and Alaska. The BLM presently manages 818 geothermal leases, with 59 geothermal leases in producing status generating about 1,275 megawatts of installed geothermal energy on public lands. This amounts to over 40 percent of U.S. geothermal energy capacity and supplies the electrical needs of about 1.2 million homes.
In May 2007, the Department of the Interior published final regulations on geothermal energy production on public lands requiring more competitive leasing, offering simplified royalty calculations, and sharing $4 million per year in current royalties with counties where production occurs.
The BLM’s geothermal leases generated over 4,600 gigawatts of electrical power during 2011 and provide alternative heat sources for direct-use commercial endeavors. These Geothermal leases generate over $12 million in federal royalties each year. Competitive lease sales since 2007 have netted over $76 million in bonus bids for geothermal lease parcels in Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Nevada, and California. A competitive auction of public lands in Nevada held in August 2008 was the largest geothermal sale ever in terms of dollars bid, bringing in a record $28.2 million for a total of 105,211 acres. The development and production of the geothermal resources on these lands will bring the Nation closer to meeting its targets for electrical energy production from renewable resources.
A Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) relating to the authorization of geothermal leasing was completed in October 2008, and the Record of Decision was signed in December 2008. The Record of Decision amended 114 Bureau of Land Management resource management plans and allocated about 111 million acres of Bureau-managed public lands as open for leasing. An additional 79 million acres of National Forest System lands are also legally open for leasing. The completion of this document has resulted in a significant demand for new leases for geothermal resources.
Since the completion of the Programmatic EIS, the BLM has competitively leased over one million acres of federal lands, generating over $76 million in bonus bids for geothermal lease parcels. The overall lease sales include 67 parcels in Utah, totaling 241,490 acres; 11 parcels in Oregon, totaling 41,362 acres; 13 parcels in Idaho totaling 17,580 acres; 14 parcels in California, totaling 14,110 acres; 1 parcel in Colorado, totaling 799 acres; and 251 parcels in Nevada, totaling 724,085 acres.
Fact sheet: Renewable Energy and the BLM: GEOTHERMAL (Jan 2013) (pdf)
Geothermal Leasing and Operations on Federal Lands
Geothermal regulations published in the Federal Register on May 2, 2007 became effective on June 1, 2007. To read or download them, click here.
The BLM has held 13 competitive lease sales under the new regulations.
- June 20, 2007 - 8 parcels leased in Utah and Idaho; $9.4 million total revenue
- August 14, 2007 - 49 parcels leased in California and Nevada; $19.7 million total revenue
- August 6, 2008 - 35 parcels leased in Nevada; $28.2 million total revenue
- December 19, 2008 - 44 parcels leased in Utah; $5.7 million total revenue
- July 14, 2009 - 98 parcels leased (82 in Nevada, 15 in California, 1 in Utah); $9.1 million total revenue
- November 17, 2009 - 3 parcels leased in Utah; $209,257 total revenue
- February 23, 2010 - 17 parcels leased in Utah ($335,393 in revenue); 4 parcels leased in Idaho ($42,956 in revenue).
- May 11, 2010 - 75 parcels leased in Nevada; $2.8 million total revenue.
- November 10, 2010 - 1 parcel leased in Colorado; $31,345 in total revenue.
- March 22, 2011 - 17 parcels leased in Nevada; $456,353 in total revenue.
- May 24, 2011 - 8 parcels leased in Idaho; over $53,000 in total revenue.
- January 24, 2012 - 8 parcels leased in Nevada; $112,540 in total revenue.
- February 9, 2012 - 2 parcels leased in Colorado; $33,716 in total revenue.