DOI finalizes Phase 1 for California desert renewable energy development plan
- The Department of Interior unveiled plans yesterday for renewable energy development and conservation efforts on 10.8 million acres in the California Mojave Desert as part of a tour touting the Obama administration's renewables goals. Roughly 5.3 million acres are off limits to development.
- U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell officially announced Phase 1 of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan aimed at addressing climate change issues, effectively tying up eight years of collaboration between federal land managers, renewable energy developers and environmental advocates. But the plan has met hefty pushback from wind and solar interests, which said the plan has roped off prime sites for wind and could hurt California's renewables goals.
- The White House's Climate Action Plan has called on DOI to permit 20,000 MW of renewable power by 2020.
Yesterday in Palm Desert, Calif., the Secretary announced the approval of Phase I of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP), described as a "landscape-level renewable energy and conservation planning effort" covering 10.8 million acres of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
The lands identified for renewable energy development by the plan have the potential to generate up to 27,000 MW of renewable energy, DOI said. Development there is key to meeting California's ambitious climate goals, including 50% renewables by 2030.
The DRECP "provides a clear pathway for projects on public lands," Jewell said, "while giving the state much greater certainty about where those projects could be located.” Earlier this year, Obama approved a rule aimed at speeding up renewable energy development on public land, hoping to streamline the red tape that so often hogties development.
Solar developers, however, had a different take on the announcement. From their perspective, the DRECP will shut down development of renewable energy on millions of acres of federally managed lands in Southern California where it would be appropriate.
“The DRECP has simply failed to adapt to enormous changes in law and policy that mandate a significant and urgent increase in renewable energy development on public lands and elsewhere,” Shannon Eddy, executive director of the Large-scale Solar Association (LSA), said in a statement. "The DRECP issued by the BLM today is a Model T in a Tesla world. Rather than fostering sustainable clean energy development as a part of a conservation plan, it severely restricts wind and solar.”
In addition to LSA, other groups challenging DOI's plan include the American Council on Renewable Energy, the California Wind Energy Association, the California & Nevada State Association of Electrical Workers and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
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