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How to Work with the Bureau of Land Management in California

California's goal is to produce 20% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2010 and, 33% by 2020 -- with minimal environmental impact.

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Solar Gold Rush

Overall, there are 107 solar energy project applications for BLM land in California.

The federal Bureau of Land Management has seen a 78% jump in the number of solar energy project applications since it reversed a controversial decision in July, 08 and started to accept applications again.

The applicants are vying to build solar power plants that are 10 megawatts or larger in California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado, according to the BLM data provided by Andrew Malone in the agency's public affairs office.

The BLM is drafting a document to speed up the permitting process, called the Solar Energy Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS). It would carry out a comprehensive analysis of solar energy projects' potential environmental, social and economical impact.

The BLM has listed on its Website 75 projects worth 51.6 gigawatts in its California Desert District, but the numbers aren't updated quickly (you can download an Excel file for the partial list on the BLM Website).

PS: The BLM has completed a PEIS for wind and geothermal energy developments.

How? By engaging companies, communities and organizations who are qualified to implement geothermal, solar and wind energy generation projects on public lands -- and 261 million acres of public lands are available for consideration across the country.

Federal and state agencies have guidelines for working with small businesses and nonprofit agencies that can result in job opportunities, contracts and collaborative conservation projects. We hope you will check in with them for opportunities in the renewable energy, recreation, and natural resources conservation work that can benefit from your creative support.

Partner with the BLM

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has a long history of managing property and collaborating with communities and other partners to help manage almost 261 million acres of public lands.

These publicly owned lands are managed for multiple uses in three broad categories:

  • Commercial activities (including growing energy generation)
  • Recreation
  • Conservation

The BLM/California web site is a place where BLM, its partners, and the public can find information and tools to help foster the understanding and skills necessary for successful, collaborative partnerships with communities of place and interest.

Resources for working with the BLM

2008 Knowing Your Nonprofit Partners: A Desk Guide for Federal Employees

This Desk Guide helps Federal employees become better partners with the nonprofit world. The Guide is divided into 4 sections: 1) about nonprofit organizations; 2) working with nonprofit organizations; 3) challenges and potential solutions; and 4) additional resources.

Western Collaboration Assistance Network (WestCAN)

AWestCAN provides practical help to federal public land management agency employees and nonprofit, community organizations working together on conservation issues. The Western Collaboration Assistance Network (WestCAN) offers personalized assistance through a toll-free information line (1-866-774-4633) and an on-line resource library at

2007 BLM Collaboration Desk Guide

Principles, desired outcomes, and useful practices to help Federal agencies use a collaborative process.

BLM Energy Programs in California

The BLM has recently received a large number of utility-scale solar energy right-of-way applications, mainly in California, Nevada, and Arizona.

Responding to this increased interest in solar energy development, the BLM is refining the processing right-of-way (ROW) applications for solar energy projects on public lands. Existing solar energy applications are being processed under the BLM's Solar Energy Policy (04/04/2007).

The BLM's existing solar energy policy:

  • describes options for generating electricity using solar power, and the land characteristics that make a site suitable for locating solar facilities and projects.
  • identifies some of the potential environmental impacts associated with the large land requirements.
  • directs BLM Field Offices to consider renewable resources — specifically solar energy development — when undertaking the land use planning process.
  • places a priority on processing solar energy applications that are feasible and can reasonably meet environmental requirements.
  • directs Field staff to coordinate planning and applications with local officials to reduce duplication and delays.
  • reiterates existing policy that current users and permitees do not need additional authorizations to install solar energy devices on existing authorized facilities.
  • phases-in rent over a three-year period to allow time for state and utility approvals and initial construction.
  • reinforces due-diligence requirements to discourage speculation or attempts to control or hinder solar energy development on public lands.
  • directs expanded use of solar energy devices, where feasible, for BLM buildings and facilities and other uses on public lands.
The BLM and the DOE have also initiated a joint programmatic environmental impact statement to assess the environmental, social, and economic impacts associated with solar energy development on BLM-managed lands in the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah.

The Energy Commission and the BLM are also conducting a joint California Environmental Quality Act and National Energy Policy Act review of applications for solar thermal plants 50 megawatts and larger on BLM-managed lands in California.

Handling Proposals to Build Soalr and Renewable Energy Projects

The BLM, now faced with at least 130 proposals to build solar and other renewable energy projects in California's deserts, has stopped accepting new right-of-way applications for solar projects until it completes a joint programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) with the DOE.

The PEIS will help balance the rising demand to tap renewable energy resources in California's arid areas while maintaining desert land as habitat for plants and animals.

The California Energy Commission will coordinate the participation of state government agencies with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Solar Energy Development on California's Public Lands

Public meetings have been held in six western states, including California, to analyze the feasibility of solar energy development on public lands. The goals were:
  • Gather public input on the environmental, social and economic impacts of solar power plants;
  • Review applications for solar thermal plants 50 megawatts, and larger, on BLM-managed lands in California;
  • Complete a joint Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) with the DOE that will help balance the demand for renewable energy resources and maintain desert land as wildlife habitat;
  • Adopt measures that will provide consistency and certainty for solar energy development and help expedite environmental analysis for site specific projects in the future.
Bureau of Land Management
California State Office
2800 Cottage Way, Suite W-1623
Sacramento, CA 95825-1886
Phone: (916) 978-4400
Fax: (916) 978-4416
TDD (916) 978-4419

BLM has California Field Offices in:

  • Alturas
  • Arcata
  • Bakersfield
  • Barstow
  • Bishop
  • California Desert
  • Eagle Lake
  • El Centro
  • Folsom
  • Hollister
  • Needles
  • Palm Springs
  • Redding
  • Ridgecrest
  • Surprise
  • Ukiah

Edited by Carolyn Allen
| land management | solar thermal | solar energy | energy generation |


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