Siting & Permitting
Siting and permitting a solar power plant is no small feat. Land use, access to transmission, and water rights must be considered, and securing access to a suitable site is only the first step in the siting process. Solar power plants are subject to strict review processes through federal, state, and local regulators. Solar companies provide detailed project construction plans, conduct numerous environmental studies, and propose mitigation strategies to aid in this process. These practices, as well as today’s utility-scale solar power technologies, ensure that any environmental impact is minimized.
The majority of solar power plants today are located on privately-held land. When a power plant is proposed on private land, various state and local agencies must grant the necessary approvals prior to construction.
The siting and permitting process can take more than three to five years to complete. SEIA supports the adoption of best practices and policies that expedite the permitting of worthy projects.
When power plants are proposed on federal land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the BLM, in coordination with other agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state and local authorities, is authorized to permit development of solar and other energy projects. SEIA supports the use of federal land for solar power plant development and is actively engaged in BLM’s process for crafting the rules that govern how a solar power plant is permitted and built. This process is the programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) for solar energy.
Development of the Solar Energy Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement
In December 2010, BLM and the Department of Energy (DOE) released a Solar Energy Development Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) to guide the development of USP projects on BLM-managed lands for the next two decades. In October 2011, BLM and DOE issued a Supplement to the Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) to provide more guidance on the solar energy zones (SEZs) as well as the process for developing solar energy facilities outside the zones.
SEIA filed comments in response to both documents advocating for pending applications to be approved under existing policies; a variance process for solar outside of the zones that is clear and flexible; an expedited process for adopting new zones; and coordination between BLM and transmission planning entities. SEIA expects the Final PEIS to be issued in fall 2012. See SEIA comments on the solar PEIS
Read more about Utility-Scale Solar.