ARKANSAS, January 19 (Future Headlines)- In a significant stride towards expanding solar energy production and promoting renewable energy development, the Department of the Interior has announced a comprehensive roadmap for solar energy across the Western United States. This initiative aims to facilitate the efficient siting and permitting of renewable energy projects on public lands, fostering sustainable energy practices. Alongside the announcement, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has outlined key steps for several renewable projects, signaling a substantial boost to potential solar generation and battery storage capacity.

The Department of the Interior, in collaboration with the BLM, has unveiled an updated roadmap known as the Utility-Scale Solar Energy Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, or the updated Western Solar Plan. The roadmap aims to streamline the process of setting up solar energy projects, supporting national clean energy goals, enhancing energy security, promoting climate resilience, and achieving improved conservation outcomes.

Building upon the 2012 Western Solar Plan, the updated roadmap refines the analysis in the original six states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah) and expands its coverage to include Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming. Stakeholder engagements, including 15 public scoping meetings, have played a crucial role in shaping the updated plan.

The BLM has revised a decade-old policy, opening 22 million acres of federal land for responsible solar development. The proposal addresses a historical oversight by identifying 200,000 acres of land near transmission infrastructure, streamlining solar development.

The Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) acknowledges the significance of the proposal, emphasizing the BLM’s recognition of solar’s key role in the energy economy. The SEIA views the updated plan as a substantial step in the right direction, addressing the imbalance between federal land available for solar and other energy sources like oil and gas.

The BLM, in collaboration with the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, determined that approximately 700,000 acres of public lands would be needed to meet national clean energy goals. The preferred alternative in the updated Western Solar Plan opens approximately 22 million acres of land for solar applications.

The BLM is advancing several proposed solar projects, including draft environmental impact statements and notices for projects in Nevada, such as Libra Solar Project, Rough Hat Clark County Solar Project, Dodge Flat II Solar Project, and Dry Lake East Energy Center Solar Project.

In California, the BLM is set to release a Notice to Proceed for the Camino Solar Project in Kern County, allowing the commencement of construction on a 44-MW solar facility. The completion of the White Wing Ranch Solar Project (179 MW) in Yuma County, Arizona, and the initiation of construction on the Harquahala Valley (HV) Sunrise gen-tie line showcase progress in the region.

The BLM is actively processing 67 utility-scale onshore clean energy projects proposed on public lands in the Western U.S., encompassing solar, wind, and geothermal projects. These projects, along with gen-tie lines, have the potential to add over 37 GW of renewable energy to the Western electric grid, contributing significantly to the region’s clean energy portfolio. The BLM is currently undertaking the preliminary review of more than 195 applications for solar and wind development and 97 applications for solar and wind energy site area testing. These applications signify the continued momentum in advancing renewable energy initiatives.

Reporting by Kevin Wood; Editing by Sarah White