US Department of Interior continues renewables expansion on public land

The DOI also saw over 400MW of new solar capacity come online on its lands in California. Credit: Leeward Renewable Energy

The US Department Of the Interior (DOI) has granted permits to over 25GW of renewable energy capacity on public lands, a milestone originally earmarked by the Biden administration for 2025.

As of last week, the DOI has approved over 29GW of solar, wind and geothermal generation capacity on public lands. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), a body contained within the DOI, said that it is currently processing permits for a further 66 utility-scale clean energy projects.

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The DOI and BLM are responsible for administering federal land, which the US government owns on behalf of the public. This responsibility extends to the availability, permitting and approval of infrastructure projects on these lands, like renewable energy resources.

To this end, the DOI also announced an update to its Renewable Energy Rule, which it said is designed to “promote the development of solar and wind energy on public lands”. The updated rule will “reduce capacity fees for these projects by 80% and facilitate development in priority areas by streamlining application review”, the DOI said.

Reduced rents and permitting times would deliver “greater certainty for the private sector” to invest on public lands, it continued.

Currently, the BLM is able to accept leasing applications for projects without needing to issue a formal, competitive tender.

In January this year, the DOI expanded its Western Solar Plan in a move that it said opened up 22 million acres for potential solar development. The plan now covers federal lands in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming.

The expanded plan built on its ongoing development of 15 renewable energy projects across the Western US, including two solar PV and energy storage projects in California.

In last week’s announcement, the BLM confirmed that it had overseen the commissioning of two more solar and storage projects in California, representing 465MW of generation capacity and 400MW of battery storage. The Arica and Victory Pass projects initially underwent public review in 2021.

Both Victory Pass and Arica were developed and built by Clearway Energy Group.

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