Friday, November 9, 2012

Solar development in Arizona: public input needed

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Arizona released the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Proposed Resource Management Plan Amendment  for the Restoration Design Energy Project (RDEP) that identifies lands across Arizona suitable for renewable energy development.  

The BLM is also proposing a new 2,550-acre Agua Caliente Solar Energy Zone (SEZ) to be included in the agencies larger 6-state solar development plan approved by Salazar earlier this year.

Members of the public have until Dec 2nd to comment on the proposal (details below).

The Renewable Energy Development Areas (REDAs) are BLM-administered lands that have been previously disturbed or have been identified as having few known resource conflicts and could accommodate solar or wind energy projects. The RDEP will amend BLM’s Resource Management Plans across the State to incorporate the REDAs.

While the Renewable Communities Alliance (RCA) advocates for distributed solar in the built environment -- on the rooftops, back yards and parking spaces of people and businesses FIRST -- we believe the RDEP is an important alternative to the Solar Energy Programmatic EIS that opens more than 19 million acres (including 6 million acres in Arizona) of mostly undisturbed desert lands to highly destructive industrial solar.
Solar development on Hickory Ridge landfill outside of Atlanta, GA

“This statewide commitment to resource-driven, landscape-level planning effort is really tremendous and reflects the significant work of stakeholders across Arizona,” said BLM Arizona Director Raymond Suazo. “We need to make sure that renewable energy development is taking place in the right way and in the right places, and this is an important step toward facilitating smart solar energy development in Arizona.”

The RDEP EIS also includes the new Agua Caliente Solar Energy Zone (SEZ) on Sonoran Desert wildlands in Yuma County, north of Interstate 8 near Dateland.  The preferred alternative for the Agua Caliente SEZ proposes a final footprint of 2,550 of the original 20,000-acre proposed zone.

Renewable Communities Alliance does not support inclusion of the Agua Caliente SEZ.  The proposed site is currently undisturbed desert that supports valuable wildlife and riparian habitat.  It is also very close to the existing Agua Caliente industrial solar development on private lands.  If both areas were built out it would create a massive regional industrial footprint with very poorly understood and likely irreversible cumulative impacts.

SEZs were established in the recently announced Solar Energy Programmatic EIS (PEIS), which identifies areas suited for the development of utility-scale solar projects (greater than 20 megawatts) in Arizona, California, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado. The Solar PEIS identified two SEZs in Arizona; the Agua Caliente SEZ would be a third. The BLM will issue separate records of decision for the Agua Caliente SEZ and for the plan amendments to accommodate the REDAs.

The RDEP EIS preferred alternative identifies a total of 192,100 acres that are previously disturbed, or have low resource sensitivity and few environmental conflicts within 5 miles of a transmission line or a designated transmission corridor, and close to cities, towns, or industrial centers.  In addition, the preferred alternative sets standards that avoid impacts on sensitive watersheds, ground water supply, and water quality.
Aqua Caliente industrial solar project on private lands near Yuma, AZ

An electronic copy of the Final EIS, including maps, is available at:

According to the AZ BLM office, the sooner you can get your comments in, the more likely they will be considered before the final record of decision (ROD) is made before years end.

Comments may be submitted by any of the following methods:

Fax:  Attention:  Lane Cowger, 602-417-9452;
Mail or other delivery service:
BLM Arizona State Office,
Attention:  Restoration Design Energy Project,
One North Central Avenue, Suite 800,
Phoenix, Arizona  85004-4427.


Annie Khan said...

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Richard C. Lambert said...

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Arizona released the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Proposed Resource Management Plan Amendment for the Restoration Design Energy Project (RDEP) that identifies lands across Arizona suitable for renewable energy development

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