Hoping to avoid environmental conflicts and speed development of renewable energy in Arizona, the Obama administration recently laid out a plan that puts into play 237,100 acres overseen by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
The draft plan for the Restoration Design Energy Project (RDEP) is among the more land-intensive of six alternatives considered by BLM, which ranged from using 43,700 to 321,500 acres. In the plan, the agency calls the alternative chosen a “blended” plan that “incorporates all of the concepts, issues, and protections from the other five alternatives.”
BLM said the plan focuses on areas that are “previously disturbed or have low natural and cultural resource conflicts,” while still being attractive for development.
“With some of the most significant solar resources in the world, Arizona’s renewable energy economy has great potential,” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said in a statement. “This blueprint for Arizona will help focus activity in the places where it makes the most sense to develop renewable energy, both for the companies and for the landscape.”
What constitutes land that is “previously disturbed” or has “low natural and cultural resource conflicts”? According to BLM, the answer includes former landfills, brownfields, mines, isolated BLM parcels and Central Arizona Project canal rights-of-way. The agency said, as well, that it sought out “lands within five miles of utility corridors and existing transmission lines or near a point of power demand, such as a city, town or industrial area.”
If you’re wondering how this fits into the Obama administration’s push for “solar energy zones” in six states—including Arizona—where BLM is hoping to steer big solar development, the agency said the new plan, covering both solar and wind, complements that parallel process.
The agency noted that as part of the RDEP draft, it is looking in to adding an additional solar energy zone, Agua Caliente. “If adopted, the BLM’s preferred alternative would designate a 6,770 acre Zone near Dateland in Yuma County, about 70 miles east of Yuma,” BLM said.
BLM is taking public comment on the draft plan for 90 days from its release date of Feb. 17. For information on submitting a comment, as well as a schedule of public meetings to be held in Arizona, see the agency’s press release.