BLM Reaches Major Permitting Milestone for First Projects under Western Solar Plan
As part of the President’s Climate Action Plan and the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) Western Solar Plan, the BLM is releasing three Environmental Assessments analyzing impacts for three proposed utility-scale solar energy projects in the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone in Clark County, Nevada. Following public comment, the BLM will proceed with final consideration of the projects.The projects, which propose to generate a combined total of 480 megawatts of electricity on 3,083 acres within the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone, are the first to reach this stage of permitting under the Western Solar Plan. The reviews were completed in less than six months, compared to reviews under the previous project-by-project system that took on average 18 to 24 months to complete. These expedited reviews benefit from the upfront participation and conflict avoidance achieved by the Western Solar Plan. The reviews also include consideration of the first offsite mitigation requirements for Solar Energy Zone projects.“Today’s announcement delivers on the promise of the Western Solar Plan and the landscape approach to solar development,” said Michael L. Connor, Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior. “Through advance planning and stakeholder outreach, the BLM has achieved better environmental outcomes as well as a faster, more streamlined process for industry. It is a win-win approach for responsible solar development on our public lands.”Secretary Jewell’s landscape approach shifts the focus from determining mitigation on a permit-by-permit basis, to a strategic and landscape-level perspective, where mitigation can be identified through regional strategies and land use planning. This strategy places primary focus on avoidance of resource conflicts because avoiding sensitive areas allows for a more efficient and predictable permitting process.“The BLM is proud to reach this important national milestone right here in Southern Nevada,” said Amy Lueders, BLM Nevada State Director. “The success we have seen with these projects reflects the commitment of the entire BLM team and our partners to supporting responsible solar development where it makes sense.”The Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone proposals were submitted for consideration by the three successful bidders to a competitive auction held by the BLM on June 30, 2014. The auction, which generated more than $5.8 million in high bids, was part of a competitive leasing process required under the terms of the Western Solar Plan. Under the Western Solar Plan, BLM has designated 19 Solar Energy Zones covering more than 298,000 acres of public land. If fully developed, projects in the designated leasing areas could produce as much as 27 gigawatts of solar energy – enough to power about 8 million homes.Under the President’s Climate Action Plan, the Administration is taking a wide array of actions using existing authorities to reduce carbon pollution, increase energy efficiency, expand renewable and other low-carbon energy sources and strengthen resilience to extreme weather and other climate impacts. As part of the plan, announced in June 2013, the President directed the Interior Department to approve at least 20,000 megawatts of renewable energy capacity on the public lands by 2020.Since 2009, Interior has approved 52 solar, wind and geothermal utility-scale renewable energy projects on public lands, including associated electric transmission facilities and infrastructure to connect to established power grids. When built, these projects would total nearly 14,000 megawatts of capacity – that’s enough energy to power every home in Nevada four times over.These projects provide a major boost to local economies. The BLM has approved enough projects to support over 21,000 construction and operations jobs, and to attract private capital investments of $36.6 billion.The Environmental Assessments will be open for public comment through January 8, 2015. The BLM Las Vegas Field Office will host an open house on December 10 from 6 to 8 p.m. at 4701 North Torrey Pines Drive, Las Vegas. Documents available for public review are Dry Lake SEZ Parcel 1 (http://on.doi.gov/1scQTb6), Dry Lake SEZ Parcels 2,3 and 4 (http://on.doi.gov/1vwugyD) and Dry Lake SEZ Parcels 5 and 6 (http://on.doi.gov/1w72dJJ).For more information on the public review process, please contact Greg Helseth, Renewable Energy Project Manager, at 702-515-5173, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 western states, including Alaska, on behalf of the American people. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. Our mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.