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News Release NR-0703

DOI and DOE Announce Availability of New Report that Evaluates Renewable Energy Resources on Public Lands

Report findings will help to prioritize land-use planning activities

February 21, 2003

Golden, CO. — As part of efforts to advance the President's National Energy Policy, the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management and the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory today announced the availability of a new report that identifies and evaluates renewable energy resources on public lands. The report, titled "Assessing the Potential for Renewable Energy on Public Lands," will help federal land managers make decisions on prioritizing land-use activities that will increase development of renewable energy resources on public lands in the West (except Alaska). The report studied resources on BLM, Tribal and Forest Service lands.

"Our public land managers will be able to use this information as a tool for planning purposes as we work to increase our domestic sources of renewable energy," Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Land and Minerals Management Rebecca Watson said. "By working in partnership with DOE to locate and identify sources of renewable energy on public lands, we maximize our efforts in implementing the president's National Energy Policy."

The assessment was undertaken in response to a task developed from the President's National Energy Policy. The Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management and the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory formed a partnership in June 2001 to conduct an assessment of access to renewable energy resources on BLM-managed federal lands in the western United States.

"The Department of Energy is pleased to provide the technical renewable energy expertise of our national laboratories to the Bureau of Land Management," Secretary of Energy Abraham said. "Federal agencies can lead by example to improve America's energy security by helping renewable industries bring domestic energy resources to market."

The sources of renewable energy addressed in the report include wind, solar (photovoltaic and concentrating), biomass and geothermal energy. Federal land managers will use the report's findings in land-use planning activities to prioritize land-use plans and to increase the development and use of renewable energy resources on public lands.

Assistant Secretary Watson noted that public land managers can use this report in tandem with the recently released Energy Policy and Conservation Act report that was requested by Congress.

The EPCA report assesses access to nonrenewable energy (oil and gas) on public lands. "The two reports identify areas of high potential for energy. Land use planners can use these two reports to locate transmission corridors where they are most needed. This helps reduce impacts to the environment and is more efficient."

The study shows that there are some areas of overlap between renewable and nonrenewable energy resources. For example, southwest and south-central Wyoming and a portion of the Powder River Basin in Montana have high potential for wind energy development. Overlaps for concentrating solar power exist in northwest New Mexico and southwest Wyoming. Biomass energy potential exists in west-central Montana on the Rocky Mountain front.

The BLM and NREL used Geographic Information System data to assess renewable energy resources on BLM lands in the West. The assessment identifies the BLM's planning units with the highest potential for developing renewable resources, which include concentrating solar power, photovoltaic solar, geothermal, wind and biomass resources and technologies.

"Increasing our domestic development of renewable energy sources, will help to reduce our dependency on foreign sources of energy," Watson said. "Currently, renewable energy, including hydropower accounts for only 9 percent of our nation's energy, but is the fastest growing segment of our energy supply. As the report demonstrates, public lands have abundant opportunities for renewable energy development."

The assessment resulted in the following findings:

  • Sixty-three BLM planning units in 11 western states have high potential for power production from one or more renewable energy sources.
  • Twenty BLM planning units in seven western states have high potential for power production from three or more renewable energy sources.

Additionally, the BLM/NREL team identified high-potential geothermal energy sites during visits to BLM state offices. This assessment, which focused on the BLM's geothermal resources in seven western states, found that 35 sites have high potential for near-term development.

A copy of the report can be obtained from the Internet at (PDF 4.53 MB) (Download Acrobat Reader) or by writing to
Bureau of Land Management
Denver Federal Center
P.O. Box 25047
Denver, CO 80225-0047

For further information contact NREL Public Relations at 303-275-4090.
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