- State and federal officials in California announced a new plan to guide renewable energy development in the state's deserts, the Press Enterprise reports, with the completion of the first phase of the Desert Renewable Energy and Conservation Plan (DRECP) and the release of its final environmental impact statement (EIS) and land use plan amendment. The plan designates preferable areas for renewables development.
- The DRECP has been a seven-year collaboration of state and federal land managers and stakeholders, including renewables developers and environmental groups. It is intended to facilitate renewables growth while protecting the California desert’s natural resources and wildlife habitat.
- The DRECP streamlines permitting and proposes financial incentives for solar, wind, and geothermal developers that build in preferred areas. Projects would still undergo state and federal environmental reviews. Environmentalists generally applauded the new plan's protections, but the California Wind Energy Association (CalWEA) said it limits wind development too severely.
Environmentalists like the final DRECP because it protects sensitive wildlife habitat and popular recreation areas. It puts 5.3 million acres of the 10 million acres of federal land in California's deserts off-limits to development. Another 12 million acres of non-federal land in Riverside, San Bernardino, Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Los Angeles and San Diego counties will be considered in phase 2.
The plan eliminates 80% of the state’s best wind energy resources on public lands, according to the CalWEA. In order to get to California’s 50% renewables by 2030, the state will need 20,000 MW of new installed renewables capacity, including 7,000 MW of new installed wind capacity, CalWEA President Nancy Rader told Utility Dive. But limitations imposed by the DRECP will keep new wind development to approximately 1,000 MW, according to the group.
The DRECP offers five alternative plans, varying by the acreage allotted to renewables development. The Bureau of Land Management preferred option opens 388,000 acres to wind, solar and geothermal projects and designates another 40,000 acres for possible development.