STEVE MARCUS / LAS VEGAS SUN FILE
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 | 2:29 p.m.
Congressman Dean Heller and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today introduced legislation that would extend royalties and lease income from solar and wind projects to home states and counties.
The Clean Energy, Community Investment, and Wildlife Conservation Act would change the system for acquiring Bureau of Land Management land for solar and wind developments from a “right of way” process originally intended for multiple use applications like grazing, off-road racing and transmission corridors, to a competitive lease auction.
Such a system has already been in use in the geothermal industry since 2007. Under the Reid-Heller plan, solar and wind developers would have to bid for leases on parcels made available from the BLM at an annual auction. The home state and county would each get 25 percent of the lease and royalty income over the life of the project. Another undisclosed amount would go toward funding the BLM’s renewable energy offices, which process applications for new developments and to a fund to aid wildlife and recreational uses of nearby land.
"This bill will ensure the legacy of renewable energy development in Nevada and across the west," Heller said. "While we encourage renewable energy development, we are also promoting responsible development, reinvestment in wildlife and habitat, and enhanced recreation opportunities. This measure will create jobs, provide a fair return to our state and counties, and allow Nevada to be at the forefront of renewable energy development."
In other renewable energy news today, Reid introduced legislation that would provide loans for high-risk geothermal energy exploration.
The Geothermal Exploration Act is intended to help developers overcome the high up-front costs of geothermal exploratory drilling. This is the most expensive phase of geothermal energy development and can take several years.
The bill would establish a fund from which the secretary of energy could provide loans to geothermal energy developers for the exploration.