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BLM Announces Solar Energy Rental Rates for Public Lands

June 22, 2010

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released on June 10 a rental schedule for solar energy right-of-way authorizations on public lands. The move was intended to provide the solar energy industry a level of certainty about the costs associated with projects on the public lands, while ensuring a fair return to taxpayers for the use of the lands. The solar rental schedule was developed based on review and analysis by DOE, BLM, and the U.S. Department of the Interior using models that evaluated the effects of various rental rates on different kinds of solar projects. The BLM is required by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) to collect an annual rental payment for right-of-way authorizations on the public lands. FLPMA also requires that rents for these authorizations reflect the fair market value for the use of the public lands. 

The solar rental schedule includes a "base rent" for the acreage of public land included within the right-of-way authorization, payable on the date of issuance, and a "megawatt (MW) capacity fee" based on the power capacity of the project, due when the facility starts operation. The base rents, computed using a per-acre rental fee, vary by county based on rural land values published by the National Agricultural Statistics Service. The annual rates, spelled out for six western states, range from $15.70 per acre in certain counties in Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico, to $313.88 per acre in California's San Bernardino County. The annual MW capacity fee is $5,256 for each megawatt of photovoltaic (PV) solar power; $6,570 for each megawatt of concentrator PV systems and concentrated solar power without storage, and $7,884 for each megawatt of concentrated solar power with an energy storage capacity of 3 hours or more. Different capacity rates are structured to consider the probable capacity factor of the different technologies; for example, CSP plants with storage will generate more energy (i.e., revenue) per year than a PV plant of the same nominal capacity. The new rents are effective immediately. 

Estimates using NREL’s Solar Advisor Model predict that the rental rates will add 0.2 to 0.4 cents per kWh to utility-scale solar cost. See the BLM press release, the BLM's instruction memo on the rents, and a description of solar technologies from DOE's Solar Energy Technologies Program.


Source:  June 16, 2010 issue of EERE Network News, published by the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

—Karen Atkison