U.S. officials on Tuesday announced the approval of two solar projects in California and decided to open up public lands in three other western states for potential solar development, as part of the Biden administration’s efforts to tackle climate change by switching from fossil fuels.
The United States Bureau of Land Management has approved the Africa and Victory Pass solar projects in Riverside County, east of Los Angeles, which together would generate up to 465 megawatts of electricity, enough to power around 132,000 households.
Approval of a third solar farm – slated for 500 megawatts and known as Oberon – is expected in the coming days, officials said.
The land agency also called for nominations on Tuesday to nominate land for development in the “solar power zones” of Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico which together cover about 140 square miles (360 square kilometers).
The solicitation of interest comes as officials of Democratic President Joe Biden promote renewable wind and solar power on public lands and at sea to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that warm the planet.
BLM director Tracy Stone-Manning said in a statement government support for renewable energy was a top priority for the agency, which oversees nearly a quarter of a billion acres of land mostly in the states. westerners.
The land office released a draft plan in early December to reduce rents and other fees paid by companies licensed to build wind and solar projects on public land.
The recent actions mark a marked departure from Republican President Donald Trump’s focus on coal mining and oil and gas drilling.
The Biden administration failed to halt sales of oil and gas from public lands and waters, after a judge ordered sales to resume following a lawsuit filed by state-led states. republicans. Biden suffered another heavy blow to his climate change agenda this week, as opposition from West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin rejected the administration’s central climate and social services legislation.
Solar Development Zones were first proposed under the Obama administration, which in 2012 passed plans to bring large-scale solar power projects to public land in six states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. To date, authorities have identified nearly 1,400 square miles (3,500 square kilometers) of public land being considered for potential rental for solar energy development.
If all that land was developed, the office says it could support more than 100 gigawatts of solar power – enough electricity for 29 million homes. This is roughly equal to the total solar power capacity of the United States already in place, with solar production from federal lands currently only a small fraction of that amount.
In November, the land office granted solar leases for approximately 19 square kilometers of land in the Milford Flats solar area in Utah. Solar leases are expected to be finalized by the end of the month for about 13 square miles (34 square kilometers) of land at several sites in Arizona, officials said.
Solar power on public and private lands accounted for about 3% of total US electricity production in 2020. After falling construction costs over the past decade, this figure is expected to rise sharply, to reach more than 20% of production by 2050, the US Energy Administration’s information was projected last month.
But solar power developers warn costs have risen due to constraints on supplies of steel, copper, semiconductor chips and other building materials.