BLM Increases Acreage for Geothermal Development

December 29, 2008

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) earlier this month leased another 146,339 acres of land for geothermal power development, adding to 244,000 acres already leased for this purpose in the past 18 months. The most recent tracts are in Utah, Oregon and Idaho.

The BLM also published an amended plan for geothermal leasing in Western states that it says will reduce the time needed to develop geothermal power on government lands.

"All but 10% of our geothermal resources are found on Federal lands and facilitating their leasing and development is crucial to supplying the secure, clean energy American homes and businesses need," Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne said.

The new BLM plan allocates about 111 million acres of Bureau-managed public lands as open for leasing and an additional 79 million acres of National Forest System lands. As a result of amendments to the plan, site-specific analysis of future leases can refer back to earlier studies of impact analysis and best management practices, thus reducing the processing time of future developments, the BLM said.

The amended plan anticipates 5,500 megawatts (MW) of new electric generation capacity from resources in the 12 western States (including Alaska) by 2015. It also estimates an additional 6,600 MW by 2025 for a total of 12,100 MW.

Federal lands in the Western United States contain the largest supply of known resources of geothermal energy in the country. Growing interest in developing these resources is seen in the results of recent Bureau of Land Management geothermal lease sales.

An August 2007 sale drew the highest-ever per-acre bid for a lease in California's famed Geysers field. Additionally, a sale of leases in Nevada brought a record-breaking $28.2 million in August 2008. Geothermal leasing revenues and royalties are shared with the states and counties where the leases are located, with 50% going to the state and 25% to the county.

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