The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently released a draft roadmap — known as the updated Western Solar Plan — that outlines proposed solar energy development across the West. The plan is designed to expand solar energy production overall, and to streamline siting and project permitting on U.S. public lands.
The plan is an update of BLM’s 2012 Western Solar Plan, that identified land having high solar potential and low resource conflicts to guide responsible solar development in the original six states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. The updated plan adds areas in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming.
The BLM worked closely with the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to examine projected national energy demands and determine that the expected acreage required to meet the demand is approximately 700,000 acres. The plan provides approximately 22 million acres of land open for solar application, offering maximum flexibility to reach the nation’s projected energy demand with the development of solar energy. Environmental impact was a key consideration for NREL; proposed development areas of public lands selected sites in close proximity to existing transmission lines, with few other public uses, and few vulnerable resources to be impacted as areas where solar projects could be permitted.
The analysis announced this past week also evaluates alternatives that include different amounts of public land made available for solar development, and different criteria for solar development applications. The public can submit written comments through April 18, 2024. More details and instructions to submit a comment can be found at: blmsolar.anl.gov.