Competitive leasing rule to boost wind and solar on federal land

Source: Flickr/Michael Mees

The outgoing Obama administration made a push for renewables by passing a regulation by the Interior Department that could boost wind and solar projects built on public lands in California, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.

The rule will allow the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to hold competitive lease sales in 19 designated solar energy zones (SEZs) that span across nearly 121,405 hectares. It would also allow for the leasing of large-scale wind projects in 157,018 hectares of “development focus areas” in southern California.

This article requires Premium SubscriptionBasic (FREE) Subscription

Unlock unlimited access for 12 whole months of distinctive global analysis

Photovoltaics International is now included.

  • Regular insight and analysis of the industry’s biggest developments
  • In-depth interviews with the industry’s leading figures
  • Unlimited digital access to the PV Tech Power journal catalogue
  • Unlimited digital access to the Photovoltaics International journal catalogue
  • Access to more than 1,000 technical papers
  • Discounts on Solar Media’s portfolio of events, in-person and virtual

Or continue reading this article for free

“This new rule not only provides a strong foundation for the future of energy development on America’s public lands, but is an important and exciting milestone in our ongoing efforts to tap the vast solar and wind energy resources across the country,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in a statement.

The new competitive leasing rule – that allows companies to obtain government permits for federal land use at a cost-competitive price – is one of Obama’s ‘midnight’ regulations; which not only means it is to be completed in the final weeks on an outgoing presidency, but they are also laid bare more easily to be dismantled by the incoming administration.

The Wall Street Journal reports that this regulation is one of at least five major energy rules expected to be released in the final weeks of the Obama administration, which has made plans to approve 20GW of clean projects on public lands by 2020.

Despite the discourse of federal land for renewable project purposes has been rocky, this comes as the first real ruling for such projects on public lands. The BLM says this new competitive leasing programme will ensure that future administrations continue to make headway on green energy projects. It remains to be seen how likely this will be under a Republican government.

In light of that, the passing of this rule was viewed as imperative given Trump’s surprise victory on Tuesday. The president-elect has made known his plans to increase fossil fuel generation via the coal industry and is not the biggest supporter of wind and solar

Concerns from the industry

This ruling was first proposed in September 2014 and has been specifically under review since March. The delay reportedly stems from concern from the wind and solar industries – who are not convinced about the capacity and lease fees, as well as the rental rates. In addition, projects would be confined to predetermined zones which could cause inconvenience for developers.

“We have not had a chance to fully review it, but we hope this rule paves the way for increased solar development at predictable rates on public lands,” said Christopher Mansour, vice president of federal affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “BLM-managed land includes some of the world’s best solar resources, and they should be used to deliver clean, reliable, and cost-effective solar power to customers.”

The ruling has apparently been reworked since initial resistance was met. The capacity fee methodology has been reformulated to factor in the decreases in price in the electricity generated from solar and wind. Furthermore, concerns over BLM retaining the authority to sporadically alter rental rates as and when desired has been alleviated by a new framework that will dictate how and when rate changes will occur.

The leasing rule that was passed yesterday will be formally published next week and become effective 30 days later.

8 October 2024
San Francisco Bay Area, USA
PV Tech has been running an annual PV CellTech Conference since 2016. PV CellTech USA, on 8-9 October 2024 is our second PV CellTech conference dedicated to the U.S. manufacturing sector. The event in 2023 was a sell out success and 2024 will once again gather the key stakeholders from PV manufacturing, equipment/materials, policy-making and strategy, capital equipment investment and all interested downstream channels and third-party entities. The goal is simple: to map out PV manufacturing in the U.S. out to 2030 and beyond.
17 June 2025
Napa, USA
PV Tech has been running PV ModuleTech Conferences since 2017. PV ModuleTech USA, on 17-18 June 2025, will be our fourth PV ModulelTech conference dedicated to the U.S. utility scale solar sector. The event will gather the key stakeholders from solar developers, solar asset owners and investors, PV manufacturing, policy-making and and all interested downstream channels and third-party entities. The goal is simple: to map out the PV module supply channels to the U.S. out to 2026 and beyond.

Read Next

July 19, 2024
US solar manufacturer First Solar has started an investigation into several crystalline-silicon cell solar manufacturers for potential infringement of its patents.
July 19, 2024
Investment fund Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners and its subsidiary Primergy Solar have reached commercial operations at their 690MWac/966MWdc Gemini solar-plus-storage project in Nevada.
July 19, 2024
The Energy Storage for Resilient Homes Act would allow residents of the two states to use funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to purchase residential BESS.
July 19, 2024
SunPower said the decision was not made "lightly" and will consider options to support its mutual customers and collective business pipeline.
July 19, 2024
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a loan of up to US$861.3 million to support 200MW of solar PV and 285MW/1,140MWh of battery energy storage system (BESS) projects in Puerto Rico.
July 19, 2024
The corporate world is taking an increased interest in community solar, which can take multiple forms, from tax equity to offtake.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Upcoming Webinars
July 31, 2024
1:00 PM (BST) / 2:00PM (CEST)
Solar Media Events
September 24, 2024
Warsaw, Poland
Solar Media Events
September 24, 2024
Singapore, Asia
Solar Media Events
October 8, 2024
San Francisco Bay Area, USA