Policies: Land Use

Gliding Toward a Clean Energy Future - a joint report from EPIC and the Sonoran Institute

Published December 2015
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Screenshot 2015-12-16 09.12.15In the wake of the Clean Power Plan, EPIC and the Sonoran Institute issued this Build-out Study on utility-scale solar developments in the pipeline at the end of 2015. These are projects

1. that are fully permitted

2. with planning or permits likely to be concluded by the end of 2017, or

3. are located in areas already identified as suitable for large-scale solar installations).

In addition to this survey, the report identifies existing policies that supported these installments and recommends future policies to continue the clean energy trajectory.


The SunZia Project and Rapid Response Team for Transmission brief

Published June 2013
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(download full brief)

The essentials

  • The SunZia high-voltage transmission line project will span 500 miles over a portion of public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), originating in NM and terminating in AZ.
  • It is proposed by the SunZia Transmission LLC that the 500 kV line will provide increased transmission capacity for renewable energy projects.
  • The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) identified a preferred route for the SunZia line that partly passes close to the U.S. military’s White Sands Missile Range (WSMR).
  • U.S. military officials oppose this preferred route and consider it a threat to national security.
  • In October 2011, the Obama Administration designated the SunZia Project for accelerated permitting and construction through the Rapid Response Team for Transmission (RRTT) to encourage greater coordination between federal agencies.

Overlay Zoning for Renewable Energy and Transmission Lines

Published March 2012
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(download full brief)

The essentials

  • Overlay zoning can ease policy issues facing renewable energy generation development and transmission line development, including issues such as: 1. The time required for the permitting process; 2. The conundrum of transmission line development that is critical to renewable energy development in isolated areas.
  • Gila Bend, Arizona has promoted its burgeoning solar industry through Solar Field Overlay Zones (SFOZs).  Other parts of the country have implemented similar overlay zoning plans to ease renewable energy development permitting processes. Imperial County, CA and Klickitat County, WA have successfully implemented this zoning strategy to encourage geothermal power plants and wind energy power plants, respectively.
  • SFOZs operate as a placeholder for both distributed generation and utility-scale solar generation projects while also decreasing the permitting process timeline from as much as one year to as little as four weeks.
  • In Texas, there was little to no transmission line capacity for optimal wind energy project sites. In 2005 they began planning Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZs) to address encourage transmission line development.
  • CREZs have led to the development of transmission line capacity for 6,000 MW of wind energy, with 18,500 MW planned, throughout the state of Texas.


Published March 2012
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(download full brief)

The essentials

  • The BLM proposes to support renewable energy development while also protecting and restoring landscapes in Arizona through its Restoration Design Energy Project (RDEP).
  • The RDEP will streamline part of the initial process for renewable energy development on public lands by vetting the areas before renewable energy developers submit proposals.
  • In the BLM’s draft environmental impact statement (DEIS), the BLM identified and analyzed six Alternatives plus the required No Action Alternative.
  • The BLM’s preferred alternative is Alternative 6 Collaborative-based Renewable Energy Development Areas (REDA) and the Agua Caliente Solar Energy Zone (SEZ). Alt. 6 allows for 237,100 acres for REDAs and 6,770 acres for SEZ.
  • The public comment period on the DEIS ended May 17, 2012.

SCM 1004 Recycling spent nuclear fuel; management

Published March 2012

(download full brief)

The essentials

  • State Senator Al Melvin (R-26) sponsored SCM 1004, which requests access to money in the federal U.S. Nuclear Waste Fund
  • That money would be used to construct the nation’s first permanent nuclear recycling and waste storage site within Arizona
  • The federal Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future recently found an urgent need for permanent nuclear waste storage for the 65,000+ metric tons of nuclear waste in the U.S.
  • There are multiple significant risks connected with creating a permanent site, including risk from transportation of nuclear waste from the 43 states currently storing the waste and risk regarding potential groundwater contamination