Amendment addressing renewable energy on public lands passed as part of Senate energy bill

Black Rock Solar, a non-profit entity, installed a 130-kilowatt photovoltaic array at the Pyramid Lake Jr/Sr High School in Nixon, Nevada. This is the fourth solar array built at the school, bringing it to a total of 325 kilowatts of on-site solar power production.

Black Rock Solar, flickr

A portion of the Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act (PLREDA) moved forward in the Senate today as part of the 2016 bipartisan Energy Bill.

This amendment, sponsored by Senators Heller (R-NV) and Heinrich (D-NM) supports a smart approach to facilitating wind, solar and geothermal energy in the best places on public lands, representing a balanced view of how our public lands should be used.

Identifying areas that work best for renewable energy projects is essential to quickly advancing the clean energy we need, while protecting the natural resources so important to the economies of Western states.

This amendment would:

  • Require updates to management plans that identify priority areas for wind, solar and geothermal development that are high in renewable energy potential and present few conflicts with other uses, continuing a trend started by the Department of Interior with the Western Solar Plan.
  • Support coordination among permitting agencies and state and local governments.

Next Steps

Unfortunately, not all of PLREDA was included in the Energy Bill. An important piece was left out; this component would have reinvested revenue from renewable projects back into affected communities, as well as into fish and wildlife habitat conservation and recreation on public lands. It would have brought renewable projects onto equal footing with other forms of energy development on public lands and waters—which contribute funds back.

We look forward to working with Senators Heinrich, Heller, Tester and Risch to reinvest revenue from renewable energy in local communities and conservation, allowing the Bureau of Land Management to better balance energy development with the interests of local residents and other users of public lands.

The Wilderness Society is committed to seeing clean energy deployed on public lands in an environmentally responsible manner. Renewable energy including wind, solar and geothermal is critically important to enhancing U.S. energy security and reducing the fossil energy emissions linked to climate change.

But, as with any form of infrastructure, not all places are appropriate for renewable energy–some places are simply too wild or too sensitive to develop. And wherever development occurs, it must take place in a responsible manner to ensure the health and resilience of our natural resources.