DOE proposes easing environmental reviews for certain storage, solar, transmission projects

The Department of Energy is proposing to ease environmental reviews for certain energy storage, solar and rebuilt or upgraded transmission projects on federal land.

Those types of projects — given their limited effect on the environment — would be eligible for “categorical exclusions” under the proposal published Thursday in the Federal Register.

DOE proposed a new categorical exclusion for certain energy storage projects and revising ones for transmission lines and solar projects, according to the notice.

Under the proposal, eligible projects would not require an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement.

Battery and flywheel energy storage systems would be eligible for the simplified review process if they are built on or next to already disturbed land.

Also, DOE proposed removing a 20-mile limit on the length of existing power lines that are eligible for the simplest form of environmental review. The proposal would also give developers the option to relocate a line within land already allocated to or developed for their power line and require that upgrades or rebuilds of the line incorporate best practices to protect the local environment, the department said.

For solar, DOE proposed changing the current categorical exemption by removing a 10-acre limit for solar projects on already-developed land.

The direct benefits of the proposal include reduced cost and time for environmental analysis by DOE, project proponents and the public, the department said. Indirect benefits include improved grid reliability and resilience as well as increased carbon-free generation.

Comments on the proposal are due Jan. 2.

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