BLM Advances Arizona Renewable Energy Development Project

February 29, 2012

The U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released on February 16 the draft plan for the Restoration Design Energy Project. The initiative seeks to identify lands across Arizona most suitable for wind and solar power projects, with a focus on areas that are previously disturbed or have low natural and cultural resource conflicts. The project seeks to establish "renewable energy development areas" on lands that include former landfills, brownfields, mines, isolated BLM parcels, and canal rights-of-way that are part of the Central Arizona Project.

The draft environmental impact study (EIS) also proposes a baseline for environmental protection measures for facilities sited in these areas. The areas could be used for wind or solar projects, both utility-scale projects with more than 20 megawatts capacity and smaller distributed-scale development. The preferred alternative identified in the draft EIS calls for designating 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. And the draft EIS addresses water issues by instituting design features to avoid negative impacts to watersheds, groundwater supply, and water quality. The BLM manages about 237,100 acres in Arizona that meet these criteria. Public comments will be accepted until May 17, 2012. See the Interior Department press release and the Restoration Design Energy Project Web page.