BLM plans major solar expansion in the West

Dec 7, 2022

The Biden administration is taking new actions to combat climate change by expanding solar power on federal lands in the West, including updating plans, streamlining permitting where appropriate, and kick-starting reviews for major solar projects in Arizona.

The Department of the Interior announced plans to begin an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that would update and expand the 2012 Western Solar Plan. The Obama-era plan analyzed millions of acres of BLM land in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah, and established 17 solar energy zones in those states where commercial-scale solar development was deemed suitable for a less-rigorous permitting process. Updates to the plan will take into account new solar technology, new transmission lines, and the Biden administration’s goal to decarbonize the grid by 2035The results of the updated EIS could add additional states to the Western Solar Plan, as well as new solar energy zones. The BLM will also begin evaluating three large-scale solar projects in Arizona.

In a statement, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland emphasized the importance of achieving both renewable energy development and conservation goals: “Our review of these proposed projects in Arizona, and a new analysis of the role public lands can play in furthering solar energy production, will help ensure we keep the momentum going to build a clean energy future, lower costs for families, and create robust conservation outcomes on the nation’s lands and waters.”

The BLM manages over 245 million acres of land in the West, and there is space for both conservation of natural resources and renewable energy development, where appropriate. “We take seriously our responsibility to manage the nation’s public lands responsibly and with an eye toward the increasing impacts of the climate crisis,” Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Laura Daniel-Davis said in a statement. “The power and potential of the clean energy future is an undeniable and critical part of that work.”

Quick hits

U.S. will consider new priority areas for solar energy on public lands

Reuters | E&E News | Department of the Interior [Press Release]

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E&E News | The Hill | Bloomberg

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Interior Department leasing delays spur lawsuits from oil industry

K2 Radio | Wyoming Public Media | E&E News

Wyoming outdoor recreation wave boosts local economy


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Utah Public Radio

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Quote of the day

I think what we are seeing is the inherent value that the outdoor recreation economy has in a state like Wyoming. People across the state are looking towards this industry as a means of economic diversification and vitality for our local and state economies.”

—Patrick Harrington, manager of the Wyoming Outdoor Recreation Office, WyoFile

Picture this

fox curled up in the sand

The smallest fox in North America, desert kit foxes have many adaptations to help them survive the harsh weather in the desert. These cat-sized cuties have fluffy feet to provide insulation from the scalding ground, and big ears help radiate heat from their blood. Photo @USFWS

(featured image: A solar project on BLM land in Nevada. Photo: BLM Nevada)