Guidelines for legal and policy considerations associated with solar development on Reclamation land

Project ID: 3863
Principal Investigator: Mike Norris
Research Topic: Improved Power Generation
Funded Fiscal Years: 2013
Keywords: renewable energy policy

Research Question

To proceed with and accelerate solar development within Reclamation we need to identify and thoroughly understand the legal and policy considerations associated with such development. The purpose of this proposal is to create a set of guidelines that Reclamation managers, planners and stakeholders can use for their own solar energy-related grant and project proposals.

This proposal will address the following questions:
1. What are the legal and regulatory requirements for siting production-scale solar power generation projects on Reclamation lands?
2. Are there overlaps or conflicts between state and federal requirements for siting solar-power generation projects?
3. What are universal requirements, which apply to any solar-power project sited on Reclamation-managed lands?
4. What are some site-specific requirements, which vary depending on the individual project?

Many of the legal and policy implications of solar development on Federal land will apply to any Federal lands managed by Reclamation, so this project will produce results that are highly transferrable for use across the agency. Universal legal and regulatory considerations identified and discussed by this research will be applicable to all lands managed by Reclamation, while site specific legal and regulatory considerations will serve as examples of the types of conditions that Reclamation offices and stakeholders should explore with relevant agencies/parties.

Need and Benefit

The Federal Government has placed a priority on accelerating the development of renewable energy projects on Federal land. For example,

• Section 211 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 calls for 10,000 megawatts of non-hydro renewable energy on public land by 2015.
• The President's New Energy for America initiative sets forth the goal of ensuring that 25 percent of America's electricity will be from renewable energy sources by 2025.
• Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has made the development of renewable energy a Department priority (Secretarial Order 3285A1 "Renewable Energy Development", 2009)

Currently, Reclamation has no standard guidelines on legal and regulatory requirements for managers and stakeholders to apply when implementing solar-power generation projects. This means that each office or group must individually acquire this knowledge, increasing implementation time, and possibly impacting the chances of implementing solar power generation systems. This project will produce guidelines that should help reduce the time required for these projects, and increase the likelihood of successful implementation.

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

Research Products

Bureau of Reclamation Review

The following documents were reviewed by experts in fields relating to this project's study and findings. The results were determined to be achieved using valid means.

Guidelines for Solar Development on Reclamation Lands (final, PDF, 1.3MB)
By Norris, Michael D
Publication completed on September 30, 2015

This guidebook assists Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) personnel in screening, processing, and administering use authorizations for Non-Hydro Renewable Energy (N-HRE) projects on Reclamation lands consistent with the agency's strategic objective to create and implement policies for N-HRE projects (The Bureau of Reclamation's Sustainable Energy Strategy, Fiscal Year 2013 - 2017).


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Last Updated: 4/4/17