US ready with new renewables development rule for public lands

Blog Post created by kmillspaugh on Nov 20, 2016

November 14 (SeeNews) - The US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has concluded its Solar and Wind Energy Rule governing project development on public lands, updating existing policies and introducing a leasing programme.

The final rule envisages incentivised development in designated leasing areas (DLAs) that have the highest generation potential and fewest resource conflicts, says a BLM statement last week. Parties interested in securing leases will participate in competitive processes that would be streamlined to give applicants site control earlier.

It also updates the BLM’s current fee structure in response to market conditions, and broadens its authority to use competitive processes outside of DLAs.

The BLM pointed out that competitive leasing provisions will help renewables "flourish" on the 700,000 acres (283,300 ha) of public lands identified in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.

Still, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) commented that the move makes federal lands even less attractive to wind project developers, based on its preliminary review. It says that the rule will add time, uncertainty, complexity, and cost to a process that was already more difficult than developing on private lands.

"The rule penalizes projects pursued outside of designated zones, yet there are no designated zones for wind energy and there may not be for years. This discriminatory treatment places wind energy at a competitive disadvantage to energy sources that have such areas designated and can avail themselves of the incentives to develop in these areas," AWEA said in a statement

The regulations will take effect 30 days following their publishing in the Federal Register.

Under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the BLM is to permit 20 GW of renewable power by 2020. Since 2009, the Interior has cleared 60 utility-scale projects on public lands that could support almost 15.5 GW of capacity, it said.