Center Content: 

Solar PEIS

Laying the Groundwork for Successful Solar
The BLM manages 19 million acres that have excellent potential for solar energy, but not all of those acres are suitable for utility-scale development.  To determine where to start looking, the BLM analyzed the lands using a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS).  The Solar PEIS was a multi-year effort involving public participation and input from tribes, state and local governments, and other agencies and stakeholders.  The planning effort has focused on identifying locations on BLM lands that are have excellent solar resources, good energy transmission potential, and relatively low conflict with biological, cultural and historic resources.

The final plan identified 17 Solar Energy Zones, covering 285,000 acres in six states (California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah).  Since they were established in 2012, two California and Arizona have each identified additional zones.  If fully built out, projects in the designated areas could produce as much as 27,000 MW of solar energy, enough to power approximately 8 million homes. The program also keeps the door open, on a case-by-case basis, for the possibility of carefully sited solar projects outside Solar Energy Zones on about 19 million acres in "variance" areas.

In 2014, the BLM held its first successful auction of rights to develop in one of these zones, the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone in Clark County, Nevada.

In 2016, the BLM took another key step in implementing the Western Solar Plan by releasing mitigation strategies that will expedite the safe and responsible development of Solar Energy Zones in Colorado, Arizona and Nevada.  The strategies apply a landscape-level approach to managing development in designated areas and identify natural, cultural and human resources that could be impacted by potential solar development, as well as ways to mitigate any unavoidable impacts off-site.

Learn about two projects implemented through Solar Energy Energy Zones in Arizona and California.

Arizona Opens Lands for Renewables

The Restoration Design Energy Project (RDEP) is a BLM Arizona initiative to identify lands across the state that may be suitable for the development of renewable energy.  The project establishes 192,100 acres of renewable energy development areas (REDAs) on BLM-managed public land throughout Arizona.  The REDAs are near transmission lines or designated corridors; close to population centers or industrial areas; and in areas where impacts on water usage would be moderate.  These lands also have few known resource impacts or have been previously disturbed, such as retired agriculture properties.  REDAs are available for solar or wind energy development.
When the project was established in 2013, BLM Arizona also established the Agua Caliente Solar Energy Zone on 2,550 acres near Dateland, in western Arizona.  The national Solar Programmatic ROD established the concept of Solar Energy Zones as potential sites for utility-scale solar development.

The RDEP does not eliminate the need for further environmental review of individual sites.  Proposed renewable energy projects outside of a REDA or a Solar Energy Zone will also be considered on a case-by-case basis.  Such applications would be evaluated under BLM state and national policy identified in the Western Solar Plan and the associated Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement.  

Seeking Balance in the California Desert

Images of the California desert for the Desert Renewable Energy Plan.

The Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP) is an innovative, landscape-level renewable energy and conservation planning effort covering more than 22 million acres in the California desert.  The plan has two broad sets of goals:

To identify specific development focus areas with high-quality renewable energy potential and access to transmission in areas where impacts can be managed and mitigated. 

To conserve the desert by specifying species, ecosystem, and climate adaptation requirements for desert wildlife, as well as the protection of recreation, cultural, and other desert resources.

The DRECP is a collaborative effort among the BLM, U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, California Energy Commission, and California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

View the interagency DRECP website.