The BLM has modernized its regulations for dealing with the relatively new area of leasing wind and solar rights on public lands. The regulations are designed to help spur solar and wind energy development on public lands in the West.
The regulations promote the use of “designated leasing areas,” preferred areas for renewable energy development that include the BLM’s Solar Energy Zones, Development Focus Areas, Renewable Energy Development Areas, and other areas identified for competitive purposes which are preferred locations for solar or wind energy development. Such areas have been analyzed in a BLM Resource Management Plan and approved for such development and authorizations. The rule establishes competitive processes, terms and conditions (including payments, bonding, and public engagement requirements) for solar and wind energy development right-of-ways both inside and outside the designated leasing areas and provides incentives for leases in designated leasing areas. In designated leasing areas, the BLM may be able to issue a lease upon successful completion of a competitive process for a parcel.
The regulations support the Western Solar Plan, an initiative to expand utility-scale solar energy production on public lands in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah by establishing Solar Energy Zones with access to existing or planned transmission; incentives for development in those zones; and a process for considering additional zones and solar projects.