US Department of the Interior Unveils Updated Solar Roadmap to Expand Renewable Energy Development in Western States

The Bureau of Land Management also unveiled the next steps on several renewable energy projects in Arizona, California, and Nevada

The US Department of the Interior recently announced an updated plan to expand solar energy development in Western states. The plan is designed to make renewable energy siting and permitting on America’s public lands more efficient and to increase solar energy production in more states.

The Bureau of Land Management also unveiled the next steps on several renewable energy projects in Arizona, California, and Nevada. These projects have a potential solar generation of over 1,700 megawatts and a potential battery storage capacity of 1,300 megawatts.

These milestones are part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, which aims to lower consumer energy costs, prevent power outages during extreme weather, create good-paying union jobs, and achieve the President’s goal of a 100% clean electricity grid by 2035.

During the Biden-Harris administration, the BLM approved 47 clean energy projects and permitted 11,236 megawatts of wind, solar, and geothermal energy on public lands, enough to power more than 3.5 million homes.

Acting Deputy Secretary Laura Daniel-Davis said that the Interior Department’s work to develop renewable energy projects responsibly and quickly is essential to achieving the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035. She also said that the updated solar roadmap will help the administration achieve that goal in more states and on more lands across the West.

The BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning stated that public lands are crucial in transitioning to clean energy. The progress the BLM is announcing on several clean energy projects across the West represents continued momentum in achieving those goals. She added that investing in clean and reliable renewable energy represents the BLM’s commitment to building a clean energy economy, tackling the climate crisis, promoting American energy security, and creating jobs in communities nationwide.

The Department published a draft analysis of the Utility-Scale Solar Energy Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement. Known as the updated Western Solar Plan, the strategy would streamline the BLM’s framework for siting solar energy projects to support national clean energy goals, long-term energy security, climate resilience, and improved conservation outcomes.

The proposal is an update of BLM’s 2012 Western Solar Plan, which identified areas in six states with high solar potential and low resource conflicts to guide responsible solar development and provide certainty to developers. The updated roadmap refines the analysis in the original six states. It includes Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming.

The BLM’s preferred alternative in the updated Western Solar Plan would provide approximately 22 million acres of land for solar applications, giving the nation maximum flexibility to reach its clean energy goals.

By directing development to areas with fewer sensitive resources, less conflict with other uses of public lands, and close proximity to transmission lines, the BLM can permit clean energy more efficiently while maintaining robust public and Tribal engagement, which are central features of all BLM reviews of individual projects.

This planning work seeks to provide updates that respond to changes, like technological advances, since the BLM’s last programmatic solar development planning effort over a decade ago. The analysis evaluates six alternatives, each proposing to make different amounts of public land available to solar development applications under various criteria, such as proximity to transmission infrastructure, designated critical habitat, or other necessary ecological and cultural resources. Public input will inform a Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement.

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Matt Hildreth
Matt Hildrethhttp://RuralOrganizing.org
Matt Hildreth is the Executive Director of RuralOrganizing.org. He grew up on a small farm in eastern South Dakota and is a graduate of Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota where he studied Philosophy and Communications. He earned a Master’s Degree in Strategic Communication from the University of Iowa and holds an Executive Education Certificate from Harvard University’s Leadership, Organizing and Action program.

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