OPINION: BLM Solar Revisions Will Lead to Better Placement

OPINION: BLM Solar Revisions Will Lead to Better Placement

This letter was written by Mark Kot of Rock Springs.

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Living in a resource-rich state like Wyoming, we are no strangers to energy development. Legacy industries like oil and gas have long played a role in our economy and are a fixture across the state. More recently, advances in technology are making Wyoming attractive for newer industries, including solar. With this type of development still in its infancy in Wyoming, now is the time to determine where solar facilities might be appropriate and what areas should be off limits.

Thankfully, the Bureau of Land Management is in the process of determining just that through its Western Solar Plan revision. One needs to look no further than the Sweetwater Solar Facility, the first utility scale solar facility built on public lands in Wyoming, to see what happens when solar is sited in the wrong place. In this case, in the fall of 2019, the unfortunate placement of the Sweetwater Solar Facility boundary fence forced approximately 1,000 migrating antelope into the right of way of Wyoming Highway 372. No one wants to see want to see similar disruptions to other big game migration corridors or damage to other natural resources from solar facilities being constructed in the wrong place.

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By identifying areas with conservation conflicts and taking them off the table from the start the BLM can direct projects to the right places, saving the solar industry time, money, and predictable complications. With the sizable acreage it manages, the BLM can promote responsible solar development without sacrificing the wildlife, cultural sites, and special places the people of Wyoming value. With technology changing and innovation continuing to lower the costs of solar energy, this is our chance to be proactive and establish guardrails that protect the values we care deeply about in Wyoming.