U.S. Department of Energy Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are jointly preparing a solar energy programmatic environmental impact statement (Solar PEIS). This Solar PEIS is a prelude to permitting or sponsoring large-scale solar electricity-generating installations in the Western United States, including the Southern California desert. The California Energy Commission, a cooperating agency to the federal agencies, has established this website section to assist the public in finding information about the Solar PEIS and opportunities to participate in the environmental analysis process.

The BLM and DOE are evaluating whether installations of large-scale solar electric power plants on public lands could be facilitated by developing agency-specific programs that establish environmental policies and mitigation strategies for this solar development. The BLM would apply the policies and strategies resulting from the Solar PElS when deciding to issue rights-of-way for solar projects on BLM-managed land. The DOE'S Solar Energy Technologies Program would apply its policies and strategies when choosing to provide financial sponsorships (such as grants) for solar projects installed on BLM-managed or other lands in six Western states.

The Solar PEIS will evaluate alternative approaches to solar energy development:

  • No Action
  • Facilitated Development

Under the No Action alternative, the BLM and DOE would continue to evaluate solar energy project proposals on a case-by-case basis. For the Facilitated Development alternative, the agencies intend to create a 20-year forecast of reasonably foreseeable solar energy development. The public comment period for defining the scope of the Solar PEIS ended on July 15, 2008. The comments received will help refine the alternatives and focus the analyses on priority resource impacts. With the results from the Solar PEIS, the agencies intend to establish siting criteria and best management practices which would minimize potential impacts to natural and cultural resources. The Solar PElS will also consider whether new transmission corridors are needed on BLM-managed land to interconnect solar electric facilities to the grid.

The Solar PElS will not include lands within National Conservation Areas, National Monuments, Wilderness Areas, Wilderness Study Areas, Wild and Scenic Rivers, and National Historic and Scenic Trails. Lands within the California Desert Conservation Area that are not further designated by any of the above categories (such as Wilderness Area) are included in the Solar PEIS. Furthermore, the Solar PElS will not include lands that the BLM previously identified in its land use plans as environmentally sensitive, such as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern.

The purpose of the Solar PEIS is not to eliminate the need for site-specific environmental review for individual solar development proposals. Once the Solar PElS has been completed, these site-specific reviews will determine whether the projects' plans of development follow the best management practices and mitigation strategies prescribed in the Solar PEIS. Until the Solar PElS is completed, the BLM will continue to process solar energy applications on a case-by-case basis.

For More information, Please Contact:

Kristy Chew
Siting, Transmission, and Environmental Protection (STEP) Division
California Energy Commission
1516 - 9th Street
Sacramento, CA 95814

News Media Please Contact:

Media & Public Communications Office
Phone: 916-654-4989
E-mail: mediaoffice@energy.state.ca.us