BLM considers revisions to public land regulations for renewable energy

Public land renewable energy projects
Sweetwater is a 97.9 MWdc solar facility in Green River, Wyoming. Completed in early 2019, the project is Wyoming's first utility solar project and the largest in the state. Located on approximately 703 acres, 638 of which are federal land, Sweetwater is expected to generate enough clean energy to power 12,000 per year. (Courtesy: Cleanera)

The Biden administration has started the process of revising public land regulations for renewable energy projects, a move that advocates say could cut costs for wind and solar project developers.

The Bureau of Land Management is soliciting public input on proposed rulemaking related to renewable energy permitting and linear rights-of-way on public lands.

Specifically, the BLM is interested in hearing preliminary input related to the following:

  • Rent schedules and fees for linear, solar, and wind energy rights-of-way
  • Scenarios or criteria when reduced rents/fees are appropriate for wind and solar rights-of-way
  • Competitive processes for wind and solar rights-of-way
  • Potential extension beyond 30-years for wind and solar rights-of-way
  • Application prioritization and screening rights-of-way
  • Application processing time standards
  • Other improvements to the BLM’s administration of renewable energy and linear rights-of-way, including considerations related to environmental justice

Gregory Wetstone, president and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy, cheered the Biden administration's move to update regulations for renewable energy development on public lands.

“Facilitating more renewable energy development on public lands, where resource development has primarily focused on fossil fuels, is an essential component of meeting our climate objectives," Wetstone said. "An improved and streamlined permitting process that considers the host of climate benefits clean energy projects provide would help ease access, accelerating America’s transition to a renewable energy economy."

BLM has notified potentially affected Tribes and has released information about upcoming listening sessions. The agency expects to public proposed rule changes early next year.

map renewable energy projects on public land
Approved renewable energy projects (wind, solar, and geothermal) on public lands in the U.S., according to the Wilderness Society.

BLM has approved more than 11,000 megawatts of wind, solar, and geothermal projects, according to the Wilderness Society. The wind and solar projects alone, once completed, could power approximately 4 million homes.

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