Ramping Up Green Energy Permitting.. BLM asks for $20 Mill to Accelerate

I got this map from the Greenwire story so it might not be the latest one.
There must have been something in the air.. after I posted the previous post on BLM geothermal permitting, I found this story from E&E News. It’s paywalled, so here are some excerpts.

It plans to do this primarily through organizational changes designed to more quickly review and approve applications forright-of-way grants for projects on BLM lands, according to a budget justification document.
The budget proposal would allow BLM to:
* Create a “project management office” that would support “technical development of BLM field staff for the review and permitting” of solar, wind and geothermal projects “and related transmission and battery storage infrastructure.” One goal is to coordinate with the Department of Energy to tap into $400 billion in grants provided through the Inflation Reduction Act “to advance clean energy.”
* Name a task force of experts to help with breaking “permitting bottlenecks and challenges,” as well as hiring additional staff at BLM Renewable Energy Coordination Offices in the West who are tasked with prioritizing renewable energy project applications.
* Establish a geothermal regional project support team. BLM has reported that there are 48 geothermal power plants
operating on bureau-managed lands, with a total 2,500 MW capacity.
BLM declined to answer specific questions about its renewables budget request in time for publication.
But the bureau says in the budget document that the increased funding, if approved, would “support siting, leasing, processing rights-of-way applications, and oversight of renewable energy projects and transmission lines connecting to renewable energy projects.”

The FS and other agencies have had trouble hiring people, but maybe these jobs would be work at home so perhaps more attractive.

While the pace of renewables development the Biden administration hopes to achieve might be faster than before, it’s not terribly impressive, either, said Carey King, a research scientist and assistant director of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas, Austin.
King noted that in Texas, which has very little federal land and few zoning laws, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) already has about 35,000 MW of wind power capacity in operation — by far the most of any state — and has turned its attention to solar. There is more than 8,000 MW of installed solar capacity in 2021, with plans to add another 8,000 MW capacity by the end of this year.
“The BLM plans sound about the same size as Texas rate of permitting/installation,” he said.

But.. the federal lands are subject to a different regulation scenario with a variety of different stakeholders as we have seen in the Geothermal Toad project.

BLM is on pace to approve 48 wind, solar and geothermal energy projects with the capacity to produce an estimated 31,827 MW of electricity — enough to power roughly 9.5 million homes — by the end of the fiscal 2025 budget cycle, according to an Interior Department report to Congress last year (Greenwire, April 20, 2022).
Much of that effort has focused on solar resource-rich Nevada, where the bureau in the last year has removed tens of thousands of acres of federal lands for use while it evaluates commercial-scale projects.
BLM last year removed the equivalent of 185 square miles of federal lands in southern Nevada’s Esmeralda County from new mining claims and other uses for two years while it studies seven utility-scale solar power projects that would have the capacity to produce 5,350 MW of electricity, or enough to power roughly 1.8 million homes (E&E News PM, July 26, 2022).
BLM last week segregated from new mining claims and other uses 5,281 acres straddling Clark and Nye counties in Nevada, about 40 miles west of Las Vegas, while it studies the proposed 500-MW Mosey Solar Project (E&E News PM, March 20).
The Mosey project is near three other large-scale solar project proposals covering nearly 16,000 acres of federal lands southeast of Pahrump, Nev., that BLM in 2021 withdrew from new mining claims while it evaluated each.
But the buildup has prompted some pushback from those worried about impacts to natural resources.
A number of residents in Nevada and California told BLM during an online hearing last month to gather public feedback on the bureau’s plan to update its 2012 Western Solar Plan (E&E News PM, Feb. 14).
“We are basically, to put it very simply, we are right in the middle of this attack of solar on our community,” said Don Sneddon, a Desert Center, Calif., resident who asked BLM to designate in the plan “exclusion zones” around towns and residential areas to prevent solar power plants from encroaching on homes. “Very simply said, the human element needs to be considered.”

As to Biden Admin alignment, it appears that the new Avi Kwa Me National Monument was protected partially in response to concerns of the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe. There’s an open access article on this on Greenwire.

“To us, this is the last of what’s left out there,” said McDowell, who serves as project manager of the Topock remediation project, which aims to address groundwater contamination near the Topock Maze, a geoglyph near Needles, Calif., considered to be spiritually important to the tribe.

“Every time we turn around, there’s a proposal to put in a wind farm or a solar project that would wipe this landscape out,” she said.

McDowell noted that the Mojave are not opposed specifically to wind energy development, but rather its impact on an important area.

“It’s not that we’re against any type of energy development. It’s just where you put it at,” McDowell said. “And unfortunately, to people that don’t live here, don’t come from here … or don’t know the land like the Mojave people do, they see it just as a piece of desert, as a landscape than can be bulldozed and cleared.”

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