Latest: California's plan for conservation-minded energy development takes its first step forward

The Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan is intended to guide energy development, while protecting wildlife and recreation.

  • Interior Secretary Sally Jewell unveils a draft of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan in 2014.

    U.S. Department of the Interior
 

BACKSTORY
The first wave of major renewable energy projects in Western deserts began in the mid-2000s, with several large solar projects and wind farms approved for California and Nevada. In response, federal and California officials started work on the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan in 2008, to guide development while protecting wildlife and recreation. In 2011, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., proposed amending the California Desert Protection Act to require energy companies to fund habitat mitigation (“Sacrificial land,” HCN, 4/22/13).


FOLLOWUP 
In November, officials announced the first phase of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, clearing the way for solar, wind and geothermal energy development on 400,000 acres of public lands in the California desert. The plan also sets aside 5 million acres for conservation and 3 million acres for recreation. The second phase of the plan, for non-federal lands, has no deadline — something that worries both energy and environmental groups, who say the total acreage open to development won’t be known for years.