Solar Energy Development in Nevada Raises Concerns Over Lack of Updated Management Plan

Solar Energy Development in Nevada Raises Concerns Over Lack of Updated Management Plan

With nearly 100 pending solar plant applications in Nevada, conservationists are worried about the absence of an updated management plan specific to utility-scale solar development in the state. The push for more solar energy comes from both state and federal clean energy initiatives. In 2019, the Nevada Legislature passed Senate Bill 358, which updated the state’s renewable energy portfolio standard. The bill requires the state to generate 50 percent of its electricity from renewable resources by 2030 and be carbon neutral by 2050.

Congress also directed the permitting of 25 gigawatts of solar, wind, and geothermal production on public lands nationwide by 2025. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has permitted 9 gigawatts of solar projects, but only 4 gigawatts are currently operational. The Biden administration aims for a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 and has prioritized improving the permitting process for renewable energy deployment on public lands.

However, the absence of a comprehensive plan for utility-scale solar development in Nevada has led to concerns among conservationists. While neighboring states have drafted plans to guide solar development within their borders, Nevada has not. This lack of strategy has resulted in conflicts between conservationists, developers, and federal permitters over project sites.

The BLM approved its first utility-scale solar project on public land in 2010 and established the Western Solar Plan in 2012 as a federal guideline for solar development in Western states. There are currently five designated zones for solar development in Nevada, but only one zone has been developed so far. The BLM is updating its Western Solar Plan, and the draft environmental impact statement will be released in September.

In addition to the designated solar energy zones, the federal government has identified over 9 million acres of public land as suitable for solar development in Nevada. However, the current plan does not identify specific environmental concerns within those areas. In contrast, neighboring states like Arizona and California have developed plans to streamline and guide solar development in their regions.

Conservationists are calling for an updated management plan that balances the need for clean energy production with the preservation of natural habitats and public lands. They believe that having a comprehensive strategy would ensure responsible and sustainable solar development in Nevada.

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