The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) last week put 31 renewable energy projects on a list for expedited processing so they could receive incentive funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act before its December 2010 deadline.
The list includes 14 solar, seven wind, three geothermal, and seven transmission projects, which range in scale from 24 MW to 986 MW. Technologies vary, as does acreage involved. “They represent the first generation of large-scale renewable energy projects to be carefully sited on public lands over the next several years,” BLM Director Bob Abbey said in a statement last week.
The federal agency said that the projects selected are those that demonstrated they had made “sufficient progress to formally start the environmental review and public participation process.” These projects were advanced enough in the permitting process to be potentially cleared for approval by December 2010.
Among the projects listed are BrightSource Energy’s 400-MW Ivanpah solar thermal plant complex, Stirling Solar’s 740-MW Solar Two project, the 200-MW San Diego Tule Wind Project, and Blue Mountain Geothermal power plant and transmission line in Nevada.
“The fast-track process is about focusing our staff and resources on the most promising renewable energy projects,” said Abbey, “not about cutting corners, especially when it comes to environmental analyses or opportunities for public participation.”
Last week, the BLM also said that it was establishing a network of renewable energy coordination offices that would include appropriate multidisciplinary BLM staff and resources from other federal and state agencies to assist in the processing of applications. So far, the BLM has established Renewable Energy Coordination Offices in California, Nevada, Arizona, and Wyoming, where the majority of the existing workload for renewable energy applications and projects is currently located.
The BLM has identified nearly 23 million acres of public land with solar energy potential in six southwestern states and more than 20 million acres of public land with wind energy potential in 11 western states. To date, it has completed programmatic environmental impact studies for wind and geothermal development and is working on a programmatic environmental impact study for solar development.