Geothermal part of Biden administration’s BLM clean energy push
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management pushes ahead with ambitious clean energy development on public lands across the U.S. with geothermal projects in Nevada and Utah.
A report released by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, that was submitted to Congress, forecasts that BLM is on track to approve 48 wind, solar, and geothermal energy projects with the capacity to produce around 31.827 GW of electricity by the end of the fiscal 2025 budget cycle.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages licensing of development on federal public land across the United States. In the reinvigoration of its renewable energy program, BLM authorizes three major categories of renewable energy generation on public lands: solar, wind, and geothermal.
The BLM issues rights-of-way (ROW) grants and leases under Title V of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act for solar and wind energy and for transmission lines that support renewable energy projects. The BLM authorizes geothermal projects in phases, under the Geothermal Steam Act, by issuing leases, permitting drilling operations to verify resources, and approving utilization plans to develop powerplants. Once any project is approved, the BLM remains responsible for maintaining appropriate oversight, including monitoring and inspections of the projects until they are ultimately decommissioned, and the land is properly restored.
During the financial year of 2021, BLM authorized two geothermal projects (in addition to 10 solar/ solar (gen-tie) projects). The projects are San Emidio Phase 2 with 40 MW and the Baltazor Hot Springs with 60 MW both located in the state of Nevada.
As of December 2021, has prioritized the processing and environmental permitting review of 54 proposed renewable energy projects on Federal and non-Federal land with a combined potential capacity of 33,000 MW.
- 39 solar projects – with total capacity of over 29,000 MW
- 4 wind projects – total of over 2,000 MW
- 5 geothermal projects – total of 188 MW – location in Utah and Nevada.
“The BLM offered 103,219 acres under 2 geothermal lease sales in FY21 resulting in the leasing of 49,551 acres. Processing is underway on 5 geothermal projects located in Nevada and Utah. Combined, these projects have a potential generation capacity of 188 MW. Permitting projections for geothermal energy are as follows: FY22=108 MW; FY23=80 MW. No projects are named for 2024 and 2025.”
BLM sees the geothermal program limited in its ability to undertake programmatic efforts to enhance the program. As a result, BLM said it “will continue to prioritize Congressional appropriations to support the geothermal program. Unlike its ability to charge cost-recovery funding of project proponents for wind and solar proposals under section 504 of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, the BLM’s geothermal program has no legal authority to charge cost-recovery funding of project proponents to cover the costs associated with environmental review and permitting work for geothermal energy proposals. As such, the BLM currently relies entirely on appropriations to fund dedicated staff for geothermal leasing, permitting, and long-term compliance monitoring.”