The number of prospective sites for large-scale solar development on federal Bureau of Land Management lands continues to shrink. When the agency announced on Oct. 27, 2011, the release of a supplement to its draft programmatic environmental impact statement, 17 sites covering about 285,000 acres in six states (AZ, CA, CO, NV, NM, and UT) were left in the running. That's down from 24 sites covering 677,000 acres in 2009 (see TipSheet of July 8, 2009 ).
However, BLM is retaining a variance process that could be used to approve additional solar development on about 20 million acres, and ongoing state efforts in AZ, CA, CO, and NV might lead to approval of additional large-scale development areas relatively soon. In addition, there are many other larger-scale projects under way or pending.
The agency says the 17 sites identified in the supplement (some of which have been reduced in size from before) have the best solar gain and energy transmission traits, the fewest conflicts with environmental, cultural, and historic resources, and the best compatibility with each state's efforts.
Your coverage could address the remaining candidates, the sites that have been dropped, or the sites that might be approved under the variance process.
There's a 90-day public comment period that ends Jan. 27, 2012.
- "Notice of Availability of the Supplement to the Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for Solar Energy Development in Six Southwestern States and Notice of Public Meetings,"  BLM and DoE, FR Doc No. 2011-27874, published Oct. 28, 2011.
Public meetings will be held beginning at 7 pm at the following sites (see Q&A URL above for details):
- Nov. 30, 2011: Las Vegas, NV
- Dec. 1: Phoenix, AZ
- Dec. 7: El Centro, CA
- Dec. 8: Palm Desert, CA
A proposed rule that would establish the process and parameters for gaining approval for development on each site is anticipated in late spring 2012. The final solar PEIS is scheduled for July 2012, and the final decision about how to proceed with approvals and development would occur about 60 days later.
For one example of media coverage of the supplemental draft PEIS, see:
- "Obama Administration Announces Desert 'Solar Energy Zones',"  Los Angeles Times, Oct. 28, 2011, by Julie Cart.