Renewables permitted on public lands surpasses hydropower

Recently, an important milestone was reached: renewable energy projects approved on public lands in the past six years will, when built, produce more energy than all of the hydropower projects created in the past 100 years—including the Grand Coulee and Hoover dams. 

That’s because the Obama Administration has prioritized the deployment of renewable energy on public lands, helping our nation begin to move beyond pollution-causing fossil fuels. In the past seven years, 57 projects have been approved, totaling more than 15,000 MW of power—enough electricity to power roughly 5 million American homes. Replacing the coal, oil and gas found on public lands with appropriately sited renewable energy is setting a course for cleaner air and water and a more sustainable planet.

Despite the forward progress shown by the amount of projects permitted, the process for developing renewable energy on public lands is stuck in the past. In fact, wind and solar projects are being approved with the same type of permit used for roads and telephone poles.

Fortunately the BLM has proposed leasing guidelines tailored to the unique characteristics and impacts of modern, large-scale renewable energy projects. This includes not only updating the leasing process to make it more efficient, but also incentivizing development in appropriate places to avoid environmental conflict.

Now is the time for the Obama Administration to finalize these “smart from the start” leasing guidelines for wind and solar energy, creating a 21st century energy framework for the clean energy of the future.

In the face of climate change, advancing renewable energy alone is not enough to protect wilderness—we must also ensure it is done in a safe and responsible way. A smarter approach to development is needed to help avoid negative environmental impacts.

In more ways than one, 2015 has been a historic year for addressing climate change, the greatest challenge in our work to protect wilderness. Let’s keep the momentum up to ensure a future for all of us.