- New guidelines from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) streamline the implementation of Solar Energy Zones (SEZs) on public lands while protecting natural, cultural, and human resources that could be impacted by solar development.
- One of the keys in advancing the Obama administration’s Western Solar Plan for Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah is requiring developers to pay a per-acre fee to fund off-site mitigation measures and streamline environmental review for projects within the SEZs.
- Along with new guidelines, BLM released final strategies for three SEZs in Arizona and one in Nevada. It also released draft mitigation strategies for three SEZs on BLM land in Colorado’s San Luis Valley and expects to have those strategies finalized this spring.
The 2012 Western Solar Plan created the SEZs. It is a blueprint for solar development because it identifies the sites on public land with access to existing or planned transmission, offers incentives for development at those sites, and provides a process for developers to submit alternatives.
The new guidelines build on lessons learned by BLM in administering solar development at the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone in Clark County, Nevada, its first successful SEZ auction. It brought in $5.8 million for the U.S. Treasury and allowed project approvals in half the normal time, according to the BLM.
The new Nevada SEZ — the 25,069-acre Dry Lake Valley North – is the largest of five SEZs in that state, capable of producing up to 4,000 MW of renewable energy.
The strategies are not National Environmental Policy Act documents or decisions. They are aimed at helping inform analyses of specific solar project proposals.
The guidelines are to guide solar development on public lands “in the right places and in the right ways,” BLM Director Neil Kornze said in a statement.