BLM’s National Renewable Energy Strategy
Ramping up renewable energy deployment on America’s public lands is a key step toward meeting the Biden-Harris Administration’s goal of a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035, as well as Congress’s direction to seek to permit at least 25 gigawatts of solar, wind, and geothermal energy production on public lands by not later than 2025. To achieve these aims as laid out in Executive Order 14008 and the Energy Act of 2020, the BLM is engaging and working closely with other federal agencies, state and tribal and local governments, local communities, conservation groups, and the renewable energy industry to promote development of these clean energy sources.
As directed by Congress, initial actions have included assessing renewable energy program staffing levels, developing a proposal for establishing Renewable Energy Coordination Offices, and drafting an interagency Memorandum of Understanding on renewable energy-related activities. These efforts are geared toward adding the capacity, skills, and improved coordination efficiencies needed to effectively manage an increasing renewable energy workload and to effectuate additional responsible deployment of renewable energy on federal public land.
The extensive range of BLM-managed public lands have the potential to contribute significantly to the nation’s renewable energy portfolio. BLM manages roughly 245 million acres of public lands which have substantial solar, wind, and geothermal energy potential. There is a great demand for renewable energy development and the BLM works to provide appropriate sites for environmentally sound development of renewable energy on these lands.
To remove unnecessary barriers, ineffective planning or procedures, and other impediments to timely permitting of renewable energy projects, the BLM is considering revisions to its regulations related to wind and solar energy permitting and linear rights-of-way on public lands. As part of this process, the agency has been soliciting preliminary input from the public on relevant areas, with an aim to publish a proposed rule in the Federal Register by early 2022.
The BLM also has prioritized a list of key programmatic actions, regulation updates, and interim policies to facilitate renewable energy development on BLM-managed lands in the short and medium term. This includes reviewing renewable energy market dynamics and exploring additional flexibility to expand siting options as part of the agency’s land-use planning process. Efforts under consideration include updating the Solar Energy Zones designated in the 2012 Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, as well as updating the West-wide Energy Corridors designated in 2009.
In the meantime, the BLM continues to process dozens of utility-scale renewable energy applications, and to unlock new opportunities for renewable energy through large-scale bulk-electricity transmission.