Climate Change

BLM Right of Way Rule Creates Hidden Subsidy for Wind and Solar Development on Public Lands

By Guest Contributor Nathan Descheemaeker

Right at the time the Swedish energy group Vattenfall put a stop to working on its 1.4GW Norfolk Boreas site, citing a 40% surge in project costs, the Bureau of Land Management is revising the Right of Way (ROW) regulations under 43 CFR Part 2800 with comment due Aug. 15th. The purpose for the proposed change is to reduce acreage rents and capacity fees for solar and wind energy ROW authorizations in order to ‘‘promote the greatest use of wind and solar energy resources.’’ The agency “expects” the proposed reductions in solar and wind acreage rent and capacity fees “will facilitate solar and wind energy development by increasing commercial interest and encouraging additional investment in the use of public lands.”

The existing rule assesses the Megawatt capacity fee based on the nameplate capacity of the technology as an estimate of the energy that could be generated at each facility. With this new rule the agency is essentially introducing a hidden subsidy by basing the capacity fee for solar and wind energy generation facilities on actual energy generation at each facility. The Department of Interior rightfully is anticipating and trying to compensate for significant renewable energy shortfalls.

This is deeply concerning in light of the recent 10 year productivity record for European Weather Dependent “Renewables” showing the excess costs of these Renewables. This data, as shown by the following charts, tells us that Renewables in the EU are only reaching 18.1% of the “installed” capacity of Gigawatts. At this rate the Bureau of Land Management will be subsidizing the Megawatt capacity fee for wind and solar development on our federal lands at around 81.9% of the installed nameplate capacity.

The excess cost implications of displacing Gas-firing, (at four times USA prices) with Weather-Dependent generation for power generation for the current 385 Gigawatt of installed European Weather-Dependent power generation is estimated as follows:

(The excess costs of European Weather-Dependent power generation 6/2022 – edmhdotme (

BLM is promulgating this rule state side with no Regulatory Flexibility Act analysis, no National Environmental Policy Act analysis, and therefore no cost benefit analysis. This is being done in spite of the fact that the excess cost in the EU for displacing Gas-firing systems with 385 GW of installed “Renewable” wind and solar power will result in an overspend over Gas-firing systems estimated in the long term at over $1.8 trillion.

Further because the power density of wind and solar is not exceptional it takes an exponential amount of landscape for developing these energy generation sources as shown in the power density chart below.

(Energies 2020, 13, 4839, p. 12; Hatched areas indicate values between minimum and maximum estimates. (Adapted from van Zalk (2018) [87])

The Energies paper, the chart above comes from, states:

In comparing energy options, it is useful to calculate how much land is required for each energy technology and how much energy this can supply. This calculation is known as the power density and is defined as the energy generation rate per time per unit ground area (expressed as W/m2 ).

And that,

It can be seen that the power densities of nonrenewable energy (non-RE) sources are up to three orders of magnitude greater than those of renewable energy (RE) sources. In other words, they produce about a thousand times as much power for any given land surface area. Natural gas yields the highest median power density by far.

Smil (2005) points out that the proposed energy transition to renewables calls for “an order of magnitude larger displacement of dominant resources than during the last major energy transition.” Although, as the Energy Policy Research Foundation has shown in their recent report which critically assesses the IEAs Net Zero Scenario shows clearly that there is not a history of an energy transition, but only energy addition as shown in the chart below:

As is clearly seen, unless you deny your own eyes, there has not been an energy transition, and the idea that a whole of government whole of economy transition to renewables is feasible is a dangerous proposition which is being unlawfully propagated as we speak.

A jointly written white paper by Level 10 Energy, The Nature Conservancy, and the Audubon Society concede to the fact that “In the U.S. alone, it’s estimated that in order to achieve net-zero GHG emissions by 2050, developers will need an area of land greater than that of Colorado and Wyoming combined to construct new renewable energy projects.

Simultaneously the Global Biodiversity Frameworks 30×30 initiative adopted by executive order in the Biden administration EO 14008 is seeking the permanent conservation of 30% of lands and waters by 2030. As shown below some estimates are that 12% of lands and waters and already conserved, and how much is needed to reach 30%. The combination of lands needed for wind and solar development and this conservation initiative will remove other productive uses from a substantial amount of U.S. lands having significant impacts on the economic development and the wellbeing of the American citizen. This does not add up, and will devastate the United States environment with massive implications for property rights, and reliable affordable energy.

As evidenced by other rules being promulgated by Department of Interior agencies, this administration is picking winners and losers in the energy sectors as well as land leasing and permitting frameworks. These processes are resulting in vast transformative impacts on the national economy and political process with no cumulative accountability to the public, disregard by federal departments of domestic procedural safeguards, while ceding the National interests of the United States lands and waters to foreign influence at the expense of the American tax payer.

About the author

Nathan Descheemaeker and his family raise registered feeder calves in Montana, and he is a Senior Research Specialist and Policy Analyst specializing in federal and local government administrative procedures, land and natural resource policymaking, and local governmental relations.

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One Comment

  1. OK, computer companies finally created the “Dick Tracy Watch”, so who is going to create “Mr. Fusion” (from Back to the Future) and when is this long overdue controlled nuclear fusion device going to be finished? 😉

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