Abbey said that this first wave of projects (14 solar, 7 wind power, 3 geothermal, and 7 transmission) range in scale from as small as 24 megawatts up to 986 megawatts, large enough to supply power to 900,000 homes. Technologies vary, as does acreage involved, but he said "they represent the first generation of large-scale renewable energy projects to be carefully sited on public lands over the next several years."
"The BLM is committed to helping diversify this country’s energy portfolio in an environmentally responsible manner," Abbey said.
A total of 31 energy projects have been proposed on federal land and hence will be supported by the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), of which 24 regard renewable sources for a total capacity of 7,432 MW, while the other 7 projects concern the development of electricity transmission networks.
The latter was announced by Bob Abbey, director of the Bureau for Land Management (BLM) of the DOI, who specified that all projects will be approved according to schedule, that is, within December 2010.
The 24 renewable energy projects include: 14 large-scale solar plants, for photovoltaic and concentration solar power, totalizing 6,521 MW, 7 wind farms for overall 816 MW of wind energy and 3 geothermal plants totalizing 95 MW.
Abbey stated that the DOI has asked his department to create a new, more efficient facility for the management of renewable energy files and to speed the issuance of permits that are essential to obtain public funding for renewable sources.
In the USA, the BLM manages a total of over one million square kilometres of federal land and has the founding mission to "sustain the health and productivity of the national lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations”.
Within these state-owned assets, it has identified portions of land that are better suited for the development of renewable sources, in particular, about 90,000 square kilometres with a high potential for solar energy in 6 States in the South-west, and about 80,000 sq km in 11 Western states mainly for wind power generation.
It has completed programmatic environmental impact studies for wind energy and geothermal development and is working on a programmatic environmental impact study (PEIS) for solar development.
The Solar PEIS has preliminarily identified 24 Solar Energy Study Areas on BLM-administered land located in six western states. The BLM would fully evaluate these solar energy study areas for their environmental and resource suitability for large-scale solar energy production.
The objective is to provide landscape-scale planning and zoning for solar projects on BLM lands in the West, allowing a more efficient process for permitting and siting responsible solar development.