Nation’s clean energy future unfolds under the Arizona sun

Michelle Ailport, Public Affairs Specialist, Arizona State Office


Solar panels at a White Wing Ranch construction site on private land in Yuma County, Ariz., on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023.
Solar panels at a White Wing Ranch construction site on private land in Yuma County, Ariz., on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023.


Under the hot desert sun, the nation’s clean energy future is unfolding in Arizona.

The development of renewable energy and transmission line (gen-tie) projects would not be possible without public lands, nor without Bureau of Land Management Arizona staff who are at the forefront of responsibly and sustainably facilitating their development where appropriate. 

Recently, Arizona State Office and Yuma Field Office staff made the trip to Dateland in eastern Yuma County, where they were welcomed by Leeward Renewable Energy. Donning bright safety gear, Leeward brought staff along on a tour of the construction happening at White Wing Ranch on private land, starting with expanses of solar panels in various stages of assembly.

Vital to these kinds of clean energy projects proposed and in development on non-federal land, public lands bridge the gap between energy sources. For example, gen-tie transmission lines built on public lands help connect renewable energy projects to the market. The BLM provides sites for environmentally sound development of these lines on public lands.

A group of people dressed in hard hats and bright yellow safety vests huddle around a phone and a map.
BLM Arizona staff Nancy Favour, Tiffany Shephard, Celina Martinez and Vanessa Briceño listen as James White of Leeward Renewable Energy facilitates a site tour in Yuma County, Ariz., on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023.


Illustrating this in real time, an interconnection gen-tie line is under construction on public lands near Leeward’s White Wing Ranch on private land, as well as the proposed Elisabeth Solar Project on public lands within the Agua Caliente Solar Energy Zone.

Solar energy zones, such as Agua Caliente on BLM-administered land within the Yuma Field Office, are areas designated for competitive leasing for utility-scale solar energy development. In particular, Yuma County has some of the highest levels of sunlight (solar insolation) in the U.S., making this area a prime spot for solar energy development.

During the visit in Yuma County, BLM Arizona staff got to see first-hand how their efforts bring these projects to life in and near the zone.

“You read these documents and read the plan of development, so when you when you actually see it, having those images really helps you make better sense of that and to think about how issues can be mitigated,” Nancy Favour, planning and environmental specialist at the Arizona State Office, said.

Most important to the BLM’s goals, the BLM’s energy portfolio should serve the public interest and help restore balance on America’s public lands for the benefit of current and future generations.  BLM Arizona is making progress on this goal with eight operating solar energy facilities and one under construction on BLM-administered public lands, adding to the growing number of solar projects on public and private land across the state. Across solar, wind and other renewable energy sources, BLM Arizona is also reviewing 49 renewable energy applications, some of which may one day help power Arizona’s grid.

Clearly, public lands are making significant contributions to the nation’s renewable energy portfolio, and Arizona’s are no exception.

See more photos on Flickr.

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