BLM eyes solar development in Montana

The federal government is eyeing Montana for utility-scale solar development on public lands, as part of a northward expansion of a Western state program.

Bureau of Land Management officials will be in Billings on Feb. 2 to hear from the public about expanding the agency’s Western Solar Plan into the state. The decade-old plan has focused on solar projects further south in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. In December, Secretary of The Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced that Montana, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming and Idaho would be eyed for inclusion.

Haaland announced the northward expansion while touring a DLM solar project on Buckeye, Ariz.

“This Administration is committed to expanding clean energy development to address climate change, enhance America’s energy security and provide for good-paying union jobs,” Haaland said at the time.

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Improvements in technology, as well as the affordability of solar energy, are making a northward expansion possible, according to BLM’s notice in the Federal Register. The bureau isn’t committed to the number of states to include. “Utility scale” means solar projects no smaller than 20 megawatts in capacity.

Of the state’s eyed for expansion, Montana is the

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