The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has proposed a significant solar power expansion project on federal lands, aiming to encompass 22 million acres. This initiative is part of the Biden administration’s broader strategy to achieve a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035.

In collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the BLM utilized $4.3 million from the Inflation Reduction Act to devise this new roadmap for solar development. According to the BLM, NREL’s analysis indicates a requirement of 700,000 acres of public land to meet national renewable energy goals. The preferred plan by the agency focuses on areas within 10 miles of existing or planned transmission lines for solar development applications.

However, the BLM’s roadmap presents a range of options, with alternative plans suggesting the opening of 8.4 million to 55 million acres for solar power expansion. Laura Daniel-Davis, acting U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Interior, emphasized the critical role of this initiative in achieving the administration’s energy objectives, especially across the Western states.

“The Interior Department’s work to responsibly and quickly develop renewable energy projects is crucial to achieving the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 – and this updated solar roadmap will help us get there in more states and on more lands across the West,” Acting Deputy Secretary Laura Daniel-Davis said.

The Wilderness Society has expressed support for the plan, highlighting the potential benefits of “smart, responsible project siting” for communities, environmental impact reduction, and the acceleration of solar deployment. Justin Meuse, director of government relations for energy and climate at The Wilderness Society, stressed the importance of a balanced approach that considers tribal engagement, community buy-in, and low-impact siting for the success of solar projects.

Under the Biden administration, the BLM has already approved 47 clean energy projects, permitting 11,236 megawatts of wind, solar, and geothermal energy on public lands, sufficient to power over 3.5 million homes. This expansion marks a significant step towards the United States’ commitment to a sustainable and clean energy future.

Image Source: Loughborough University