Interior Department adds six states to western solar-development plan

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on Wednesday announced an update to its 2012 plan for solar power development in the western U.S., adding five states to the original six.

The original plan identified prime areas for solar development in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. The BLM on Wednesday updated and finetuned its analyses and added Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming to the plan.

The Interior Department used $4.3 million in Inflation Reduction Act funds for the update. The BLM projected about 700,000 acres of public lands will be necessary to meet the U.S.’s expected renewable energy needs, while the preferred BLM alternative of the six outlined in the updated plan would free up about 22 million acres.

Meanwhile, the BLM is also processing some 67 onshore renewable energy projects on public lands across the west, a combination of wind, solar and geothermal that together could potentially add nearly 37 gigawatts to the grid.

The Biden administration has set a target of a fully renewable grid by 2035. In addition to the updates and the additional states, the BLM noted that Nevada is advancing four solar power proposals, while California is set to take the first steps on a 44-megawatt photovoltaic solar facility and Arizona has completed a 179-megawatt photovoltaic project on private land.

“The Interior Department’s work to responsibly and quickly develop renewable energy projects is crucial to achieving the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 – and this updated solar roadmap will help us get there in more states and on more lands across the West,” said Acting Deputy Secretary Laura Daniel-Davis.

“Through historic investments from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, the Interior Department is helping build modern, resilient climate infrastructure that protects our communities from the worsening impacts of climate change.”

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