BLM Prioritizes Already Disturbed Land in Arizona for Renewable Energy Projects

02/17/2012
SustainableBusiness.com News

As part of its effort to identify the most appropriate places on public lands to site renewable energy projects, the US  Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released a draft plan for Arizona.

Unlike many of the prioritized areas which are in undeveloped greenfields, many of them with important wilderness and habitat values, Arizona's Restoration Design Energy Project takes a much better approach.

It focuses on siting solar and wind projects on already disturbed land that has little conservation or cultural value: former
landfills, brownfields, mines, isolated BLM parcels, and Central Arizona Project canal rights-of-way.

The BLM manages about 237,100 acres in Arizona that meet these criteria and include sites appropriate for both small, distributed projects as well as utility-scale.

The plan calls for designating lands within five miles of existing transmission lines or near a point of power demand, such as a city, town or industrial area; and addresses water issues by instituting design features to avoid negative impacts to watersheds, groundwater supply, and water quality.

If adopted, the plan would provide directed, landscape-scale planning for future solar and wind projects and allow for a more efficient permitting and siting process.

The BLM is in the midst of conducting a comprehensive environmental analysis to identify ‘solar energy zones' on public lands in six western states. BLM prioritized about 2,673 MW of solar, 1,024 MW of wind and 489 MW of geothermal in 2011,  priorities for solar and wind projects in 2011 and 7000 MW of solar, wind and geothermal for 2012.

The US Department of Energy finalized a $967 million loan guarantee for the 290 megawatt (MW) Agua Caliente Solar project, the world's largest solar PV plant, currently under construction in Arizona.

Public meetings on this Draft plan will be held throughout Arizona during the public comment period. Today's publication in the Federal Register starts a 90-day public comment period. Here's the draft

You can submit comments to:

Email: az_arra_rdep@blm.gov