As my colleagues Kristen Castaños and Melissa Foster posted on the Stoel Rives California Environmental Law Blog, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced today that it will publish the Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (“Solar PEIS”) for solar energy development in six southwestern states—Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah. The Solar PEIS is a major step forward in the permitting of utility-scale solar energy on public lands in the West.
The Solar PEIS will establish solar energy zones with access to existing or planned transmission and with the fewest resource conflicts and provide incentives for development within those zones. The roadmap set forth in the Solar PEIS will make for faster, more streamlined permitting of large-scale solar projects on these public lands. The focus of the Solar PEIS is on Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) lands that are most suitable for solar energy development. It identifies 17 Solar Energy Zones (“SEZs”), totaling about 285,000 acres of public lands, as priority areas for utility-scale solar development. The Solar PEIS also notes the potential for additional zones through ongoing and future regional planning processes and allows for utility-scale solar development on approximately 19 million acres in variance areas lying outside of identified SEZs.