Bureau Of Land Management Gives Priority Status To 19 Renewable Energy Projects

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The U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has given priority status to 19 projects (nine solar, five wind and five geothermal). The projects are part of the Obama administration's efforts to diversify the nation's energy portfolio in an environmentally responsible manner.

The five wind projects – three in California and two in Oregon – total about 1,000 MW of potential output. Developers of these projects include AltaGas Renewable Energy Pacific, Pattern Energy Group LP and Iberdrola.

This priority list was developed in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service, with an emphasis on early consultation. The screening criteria for priority wind and solar projects, developed through BLM policy memoranda issued in February, assisted in evaluating and screening these utility-scale projects on BLM-managed lands.

To be a priority project, a company must demonstrate to the BLM that the project has progressed far enough to formally start the environmental review and public participation process, as well as have the potential to be cleared for approval by the end of the year. In addition, the projects must be sited in an area that minimizes impacts to the environment.

The projects are largely low-to-medium conflict, in accordance with the BLM's recent policy guidance on pre-application screening. Wind and solar projects that did not meet the screening requirements of the February policy guidance were not included on the 2011 priority projects list and were designated lower priority. Such projects require a greater level of consultation, analysis and mitigation to resolve issues, or may not be feasible to authorize, according to the BLM.

SOURCE: Bureau of Land Management

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