ARKANSAS, Nov 18 (Future Headlines)- The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is proposing significant changes to streamline the approval process for certain transmission, solar, and storage projects on federal land, aiming to accelerate clean energy development while addressing clogged interconnection queues in the industry.

The proposed changes revolve around amendments to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance, introducing a “categorical exclusion” for specific energy storage systems and revising exclusions for upgrading and rebuilding transmission lines and solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. If approved, these changes would eliminate the need for extensive environmental assessments for certain types of projects.

The DOE has proposed a categorical exclusion specifically for energy storage systems, focusing on electrochemical-battery and flywheel energy storage systems. However, it noted that other technologies like compressed air energy storage or thermal energy storage may still warrant environmental assessments due to potential impacts.

For energy storage systems meeting the criteria, the proposal suggests simplified reviews for activities such as construction, operation, upgrade, or decommissioning within previously disturbed or developed areas.

Targeted at electrochemical-battery and flywheel energy storage systems. Excludes compressed air energy storage and other technologies due to potential environmental impacts. Simplified review for eligible activities within previously disturbed or developed areas.

Proposes removing the “20 miles in length or less” limitation for upgrading or rebuilding existing powerlines. Introduces options for relocating within an existing right of way or within previously disturbed or developed lands. Clarifies options for relocating powerlines under categorical exclusion.

Proposes changes to the categorical exclusion for solar PV systems, including decommissioning instead of removal. Suggests removing the acreage limitation for proposed projects, as acreage is deemed an unreliable indicator of potential environmental impacts. These proposed changes aim to facilitate the development of clean energy projects on federal land by streamlining the regulatory process. The DOE believes that by providing categorical exclusions for specific types of projects, it can expedite clean energy deployment without compromising environmental considerations.

The proposal comes in the context of the DOE’s efforts to address challenges in the transmission grid’s interconnection process. The department has recognized the need for a significant expansion of solar and wind energy resources to achieve the Biden-Harris Administration’s goal of a decarbonized electricity sector by 2035.

Despite the growing demand for renewable energy, interconnection challenges have led to delays, uncertainties, and added costs for developers, utilities, and regulators. The proposed changes aim to create a more efficient and transparent process, aligning with the broader industry goal of accelerating the transition to a cleaner and more sustainable energy system.

Reporting by Kevin Wood; Editing by Sarah White