Assessing The Potential For Renewable
Questions and Answers
- What is the purpose of the report?
The purpose of
the report is to identify and evaluate renewable energy resources on
public lands in the west (except Alaska) and various limitations on
access to them. Renewable energy resources addressed in the report
include wind, solar, photovoltaics , biomass, and geothermal.
Ultimately, the BLM will use this information in making decisions on
prioritizing land-use planning activities in order to increase
industry’s development and use of renewable energy resources on public
- Which agencies compiled it?
The Bureau of land
Management (BLM) and the Department of Energy’s National Renewable
Energy Laboratory (NREL) established a partnership to conduct this
assessment of renewable energy resources on BLM-managed lands in the
western United States.
- What are the report's conclusions?
resulted in the following findings:
- Sixty-three planning units in eleven western states have high
potential for power production from one or more renewable energy
- Twenty BLM planning units in seven western states have high
potential for power production from three or more renewable energy
- Why did the BLM/DOE develop this report?
and resulting document were done in response to a task developed from
the President’s National Energy Policy. In June 2001, BLM senior
managers, resource specialists and technical staff developed a series of
initial actions outlining how the Bureau could efficiently and
effectively implement the President’s Policy. Task 22 of this list read
as follows: the BLM will evaluate the availability of, and limitations
on, use and access to public lands in order to increase renewable energy
production, such as biomass, water, wind and solar energy. (IB-2001-138)
This task was further defined at the National Conference on
Opportunities to Expand Renewable Energy on Public Lands, Washington,
D.C., November 28, 2001. DOE was charged with “…Assisting the BLM in
preparing a list of highest priority locations for renewable energy
(wind, biomass, geothermal, and solar) using GIS maps. These maps,
developed with specific screening criteria for each resource potential,
will support the revision of future land use plans along with the public
participation process.” (Page 10, White House Report in Response to the
national Energy Policy Recommendations to Increase Renewable Energy
Production on Federal Lands, August 2002)
- How does this report relate to the recent EPCA
The EPCA report addresses non-renewable (oil and
gas) resources /reserves on Federal lands, and was requested by
Congress. The NREL/BLM report deals only with renewable energy
resources, and was requested by the Executive. Unlike the EPCA report,
the renewable energy report is not an in-depth analysis of the actual
resource amounts but rather an assessment of the potential. Neither did
the renewable report look at specific restrictions on development
resulting from land use planning or administrative decisions.
- What does the BLM plan to do with the report's
Ultimately, the BLM will use this information in
making determinations on prioritizing land-use planning activities in
order to increase industry’s development and use of the renewable energy
resources on public lands. Industry received an immediate benefit from
the report (even at the draft stage) in that areas of high potential for
development were identified. In 2002, this resulted in the filing of
over 40 applications to further study the resources on BLM-managed lands
for potential development. The year preceding the study saw only 2
renewable energy development applications filed on BLM-managed lands.
None of the BLM’s Time Sensitive Plans (TSPs) involve “top-pick”
biomass areas. However, the BLM has identified the following renewable
resources existing on TSPs currently involved in the planning process.
- Geothermal resources in the Black Rock/high Rock National
Conservation Areas (NV).
- Concentrating solar power in the Jack Morrow Hills (WY),
Farmington (NM) planning unit, the California Desert Amendment North
& East Colorado Desert, California Desert Amendment North &
East Mojave Desert, and the California Desert Amendment West Mojave
- Photovoltaic potential in the Black Rock/High Rock National
Conservation Areas (NV), California Desert Amendment North & East
Colorado Desert, the California Desert Amendment North & East
Mojave Desert, the California Desert Amendment West Mojave Desert, and
the Santa Rosa National Monument (CA).
- Wind energy potential in the Rawlins (WY) planning unit, the
California Desert Amendment North & East Colorado Desert, the
California Desert Amendment North & East Mojave Desert, the
California Desert Amendment West Mojave Desert, and the Santa Rosa
National Monument (CA).
- Do areas identified as having high renewable potential overlap
with areas with existing or potential oil/gas leasing?
there are areas of overlap between renewable and non-renewable (oil and
gas) energy resources. For example, southwest and south-central Wyoming
and a portion of the Power River Basin in Montana have high potential
for wind energy development. Overlaps for concentrating solar power
exist in northwest New Mexico and southwest Wyoming. Biomass energy
potential exists in west-central Montana on the Rocky Mountain
- What was the methodology employed by BLM/DOE to develop this
To accomplish this task, the BLM and NREL
established a partnership to conduct an assessment of renewable energy
resources on BLM-managed lands in the Western United States.
BLM/NREL team used Geographic Information System (GIS) data to analyze
and assess the potential for concentrating solar power, photovoltaics,
wind, and biomass resources and technologies on public lands. The BLM,
NREL, and several industry representatives jointly developed screening
criteria for each of these renewable resources to produce GIS-based maps
and analyses. The team identified the top 25 BLM planning units whose
areas have the highest potential for these resources.
BLM/NREL team also identified high-potential geothermal energy sites
through visits to BLM state offices. The assessment focused on the BLM’s
knowledge of, and experience with, the geothermal resources in seven
western states. BLM experts identified 35 “top-pick” sites in 18
planning units in six states as having high potential for near-term
- What opportunities have there been for public input in the
development of this report?
In order to solicit public
comment, the BLM and NREL posted a draft of this report on each agency’s
external home page during summer, 2002. The press carried several
articles about the draft report, noting that it was available for public
comment on the BLM and NREL’s home pages. Publications carrying stories
included Greenwire, Wind Energy Weekly, Renewable Energy Today, and EREN
Network News. Comments on the document were received from concerned
citizens and environmental groups including the Northern Alaska
Environmental Center and the Land and Water Fund of the Rockies.
A dialogue session on wind energy policy and the BLM/NREL report
was held on August 16, 2002, in Washington, D.C. The following
organizations were invited to participate: American Hiking Society;
American Rivers Coalition; American Rivers; Land and Water Fund of the
Rockies; Natural Resources Defense Council; National Audubon Society;
National Trust for Historic Preservation; Sierra Club; Society for
American Archaeology; The Nature Conservancy; The Wilderness Society;
Union of Concerned Scientists; Wildlife Society.
- Why does the report not address renewable resources in
Detailed GIS formatted transmission corridor data
was not available for Alaska. It was determined that identification of
transmission corridors was critical to meaningful analysis of
potentials. The BLM hopes to be able to complete the Alaska portion of
the study when funding becomes available.
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