One of the key regions sought by renewable energy developers is the sparsely populated, but ecologically important Mojave and Colorado/Sonoran Desert area in southeastern California – a vast area covering roughly 22.6 million acres.
In addition to the abundant sun, wind, and geothermal resources, the area is home to a variety of unique plant and wildlife species. It also has a rich cultural and tribal heritage and is a recreational area for thousands of visitors each year.
To protect the area and streamline the permitting process, the California Energy Commission, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service developed the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan that identifies areas in the desert appropriate for the utility-scale development of wind, solar, and geothermal energy projects.
The comprehensive plan also provides for the long-term conservation and management of covered species and preserves the natural resources, recreational areas, and scenic values.
In 2016, BLM completed the first phase of the plan with the signing of its Land Use Plan Amendment, which covers the 10 million acres of BLM-managed lands in the DRECP plan area. The second phase, which is ongoing, focuses on better aligning local, state, and federal renewable energy development and conservation plans, policies, and goals.