US looks to accelerate solar deployment on public land in the West, 1GW planned in Arizona

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An operational solar project in Ohio, one of the states the BLM is targeting. Image: United Renewable Energy.

US Secretary of The Interior Deb Haaland has announced plans to expand solar deployment on public lands across the west of the country, including three major solar projects in Arizona representing just under 1GW of capacity.  

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), an agency within the Department of the Interior, has initiated reviews of the proposed projects. The Jove solar project, in southeastern La Paz county, has a proposed capacity of 600MW over 3,495 acres of public land. Additionally, the 250MW Pinyon solar project and the 300MW Elisabeth solar project will also be subject to review. 4,400 acres of public land have been segregated for two years for these projects.

The BLM will also update its solar Programmatic Environmental Impact System (PEIS) to encourage and expand clean energy expansion across the western US. Introduced in 2012, the PEIS aimed to highlight areas with high solar potential and low resource conflict across six states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.

In a public release, the BLM said that its updated version will consider new states, altered exclusion criteria and expanded areas for solar deployment in light of new technology and more ambitious clean energy goals.

Secretary Haaland said: “Our review of these proposed projects in Arizona, and a new analysis of the role public lands can play in furthering solar energy production, will help ensure we keep the momentum going to build a clean energy future, lower costs for families and create robust conservation outcomes on the nation’s lands and waters.”

Principal deputy assistant secretary Laura Daniel-Davis said: “The Bureau of Land Management is working diligently to ensure that its processes and pace maintain the momentum we are seeing from industry.”

Last month, EE North America announced a 2GW pipeline of projects for Arizona and the surrounding states in partnership with Elio Energy. Plans were also revealed for a 3GW pipeline across the PJM region through a joint venture between OYA Renewables and Oil Well Shares.

Broad expansions like these are expected to continue in the US solar sector, in no small part due to the Inflation Reduction Act, which Rystad Energy said is due to add US$110 billion in utility-scale solar investment by 2030. The American Clean Power Association reported that the US saw a 23% fall year-on-year in Q3 utility-scale instalments.

6 June 2023
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