By Terri Jo Neff |
An application to utilize roughly 10,000 acres of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Mangement (BLM) near Safford for a solar energy project will be the subject of a virtual public information forum later this month.
A right-of-way application has been submitted by IP Land Holdings LLC for its proposed Hopper Renewable Project to be located in the San Simon Valley, about 20 miles south of Safford. The project calls for construction and operation of a 1,000 megawatt solar generation facility entirely located on BLM-managed land in Graham County. The proposal also includes a generation tie-in transmission line.
A Zoom-based public meeting is set for Aug. 17 starting at 5 p.m. and will run about 90 minutes, including an introduction by BLM staff followed by presentations from company officials.
IP Land Holdings is wholly owned by IP Renewable Energy Holdings LLC, a Delaware corporation with operations in multiple states. But for Hopper Renewable Project to move forward it needs to be granted a right-of-way to build on BLM land. It also needs a solar variance because the land involved is outside of a BLM designated Solar Energy Zone (SEZ).
Suchright-of-way applications for utility-scale solar energy development are considered by BLM on a case-by-case basis. Among the considerations are environmental impacts, public comment, and coordination with appropriate federal, state, tribal and local agencies, according to BLM.
Input from the public and other stakeholders will be used by BLM officials to determine whether the company’s application should be denied or allowed to continue to the National Environmental Policy Act planning process. If the application moves forward, there will be additional opportunities for public involvement, according to BLM.
Projects like the one proposed for the San Simon Valley fall under the Congressionally-approved Energy Act of 2020 to promote approval of 25 gigawatts of solar, wind, and geothermal production on public lands no later than 2025.
Last December, BLM auctioned utility-scale solar energy development leases in each of Arizona’s three solar energy zones (SEZs). The development from the resulting leases and right-of-way could produce as much as 825 megawatts of solar energy.
Heliogen, Inc. placed the high bid of $114,428 for a lease in the 3,348-acreBrenda SEZ near Lake Havasu City, while Leeward Renewable Energy, LLC placed a high bid of $78,728 for a lease in the 2,560-acre Agua Caliente SEZ east of Yuma.
There were no bids for the lease of the 2,618-acre Gillespie SEZ southwest of Phoenix, so BLM made the lands available for application by a non-competitive grant. This resulted in a solar energy right-of-way application being accepted for that zone from Candela Renewables.
The SEZs were previously analyzed and designated a decade ago after stakeholder involvement, including conservation organizations, state and local governments, Tribes, solar energy industry representatives, and cooperating Federal agencies.
BLM must conduct environmental reviews of all site-specific proposals before any company can proceed with development.
Those interested in viewing and/or participating in the upcoming Zoom meeting about Hopper Renewable Project need to enter Passcode 08172022. The meeting will be recorded and posted soon after on the BLM Arizona YouTube channel.
In addition, interested parties may submit comments until Sept. 17 via email to BLM_AZ_SFO_Solar@blm.gov or by mail to BLM Safford Field Office, Attn: Ron Peru, 711 S 14th Avenue, Safford, AZ 85546. Be aware that personal identifying information such as name, address, phone number, and email address may be made publicly available.