Solar energy is a critical component of a comprehensive climate action plan. Solar projects are subject to a vast number of approvals from governmental agencies. Permitting requirements can significantly impact the cost and development time of a project. Understanding the entities that may be involved in the permitting process, and determining the renewable energy commitments made by local governments, will be of tremendous importance in the due diligence phase of any project.
Permits for power plants on federal land fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The BLM (in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other state and local agencies) is authorized to issue permits for the development of solar energy projects. Environmental review of a proposed power plant on public land may take three to five years, unless the plant is located on previously distributed land.
Federal, state, and local regulators must follow strict review processes and guidelines. Developers must provide detailed project construction plans, environmental studies, and proposals to ensure that environmental impact is minimized.
Designing a strategic framework can help developers identify how to navigate the process, what may be involved in granting permits, and learn how to address potential obstacles. The following tactics can help ensure successful solar permitting:
- Identify and cultivate dialogues with stakeholders. Engage thought leaders and champions of renewable energy projects within the public and private sectors. Collaborate with influential stakeholders such as labor unions, who recognize the economic impact of the project.
Interact with potential opponents. Understanding their issues and concerns can be of value in formulating your proposed mitigation strategies. This will also prepare you to answer difficult questions during town hall meetings or press interviews.
- Assemble an experienced project permitting team. Experienced environmental and engineering consultants are essential. Land use and environmental legal issues such as agricultural land conversion, irrigation district, or public utilities commission approvals, require specialized legal knowledge. An experienced team will ensure that your permitting strategy effectively addresses the concerns of the permitting authority.