BLM announces rent policy for utility-scale solar power plants

As a result of President Barack Obama’s energy strategy, which calls for rapid development of renewable energy, particularly on U.S. public lands, the BLM has created a rental schedule for solar energy right-of-way authorizations on the public lands.

“Publishing this rental schedule moves our nation closer to creating a new energy frontier – one that relies more on renewable, clean energy sources,” BLM director Bob Abbey said. “Today, we are providing the solar energy industry the level of certainty it needs about the costs associated with projects on the public lands and ensuring a fair return to American taxpayers for the use of their public lands.”

Responding to the move, SEIA president and CEO Rhone Resch said: “Recent independent polling shows that three out of four Americans support putting solar power plants on public lands. Yet while oil and gas companies have received more than 74,000 permits to operate on federal lands in the past two decades, utility-scale solar developers have received zero. We applaud Interior Secretary Salazar and BLM Director Abbey for achieving this milestone and taking another step toward the clean energy future that the American public wants.

“Utility-scale solar projects are moving forward with today’s announcement and the BLM’s efforts to fast-track the review of pending applications for solar projects on public lands. These policies, combined with other initiatives like the Treasury Grant Program (where project developers obtain a grant in lieu of a tax credit), have helped the utility-scale solar power project pipeline grow to 22 gigawatts, enough to provide clean power to 4.4 million homes and create tens of thousands of jobs from coast to coast.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the Interior Department and BLM to develop the right policies to rapidly deploy clean, reliable solar energy on public lands in a responsible manner.”

The BLM is required by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) to collect an annual rental payment for right-of-way authorizations on the public lands. FLPMA also requires that rents for these authorizations reflect the fair market value for the use of the public lands.

The solar rental schedule was developed based on review and analysis by the BLM, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Department of Energy of economic models comparing the effects various rental rates may have on different kinds of solar projects. It includes a "Base Rent" for the acreage of public land included within the right-of-way authorization and a "Megawatt (MW) Capacity Fee" based on the MW-size of the project.