Intelligent Energy

Are the fed's fees for solar on public land fair?

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The government announces a new fee system for solar energy projects to set up shop on federal land.

Yesterday the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released its rental rates for companies wishing to use federal lands to to generate solar energy.

BLM Director Bob Abbey in a statement:

Today, we are providing the solar energy industry the level of certainty it needs about the costs associated with projects on the public lands and ensuring a fair return to American taxpayers for the use of their public lands.

The rates differ according to location, county property values, the number of megawatts produced at the facility, the use of storage systems to provide energy during low sunlight times, and the type of technology being used—photovoltaic panels, concentrated solar, solar-thermal hybrids, etc.

In some cases, the rates are much higher than market rates on private land. The technology's overall efficiency energy-wise also doesn't factor into the rental costs. For instance, a solar-thermal plant might generate the same electric output on less land than other solar types, but they need larger amounts of water to operate. In deserts and other water-strapped areas, this adds to the plant's impact on the land's resources.

Todd Woody reports for the New York Times:

That methodology is a work in progress as the agency tries to adapt decades-old formulas designed for oil and gas leasing and mineral extraction to renewable energy production.

Some 23 million acres of federal property are suitable for large-scale solar development, according to the bureau, and the agency has received more than 200 lease applications from developers who covet hot and sunny desert real estate in the Southwest.

The rental breakdown goes a bit like this:

Megawatt Capacity Fee

  • Photovoltaic panels: $5,256 / MW
  • Concentrated solar tech: $6,570 / MW
    • with 3 or more hours of energy storage: $7,884 / MW

Rent

  • Hidalgo County, NM: $15.70 / acre
  • Mojave County, AZ: $31.38 / acre
  • Alamosa County, CO: $62.78 / acre
  • Beaver County, UT: $125.56 / acre
  • Clark County, NV: $188.34 / acre
  • Riverside County, CA: $313.88 / acre

More rates can be found here.

According to the BLM, federal and state governments received $5.5 billion in 2008 for federal onshore energy leasing and production.


Image
: LanceCheung_Flickr
Via: Green

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Melissa Mahony

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Melissa Mahony has written for Scientific American Mind, Audubon Magazine, Plenty Magazine and LiveScience. Formerly, she was an editor at Wildlife Conservation magazine. She holds degrees from Boston College and New York University's Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure