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Don't Pass Me By, Part 3 - For Wind and Solar Projects, Permitting Battles Increasingly Turn Local

For a lot of us, efforts to amp up the amount of power generated by renewables are largely out of sight, out of mind. We might know that an increasing share of our electricity is being produced by wind- and solar-powered generation, especially if you live in a place like California or Texas, but the impact might be largely unseen because of where many of those facilities tend to be located. That’s beginning to change, however, as renewable projects get bigger and move closer to populated areas, causing all sorts of new issues for energy developers. In today’s RBN blog, we look at the unique challenges that renewable energy projects face, the slowing pace of project development, and some changes that advocates believe could accelerate the permitting process.

As we outlined in Part 1 of this series, permitting for infrastructure projects is a well-known problem with many contributing factors but no easy solutions. There are obvious benefits in having interested parties and stakeholders weigh in on major proposals to build or expand energy infrastructure, and credible regulations and appropriate safeguards are essential. Still, the reality is that the permitting process for some important projects can drag on for years — such as with Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), the poster child for today’s permitting challenges — and prevent others from ever becoming a reality. Parts of the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA), the legislation that raises the U.S. debt ceiling, are intended to expedite the final approvals needed for MVP. (The FRA was approved by the House on Wednesday and by the Senate on Thursday, and signed into law by President Biden on Saturday. More on some of the FRA’s other provisions below.)

In Part 2 we examined the TransWest Express Transmission Project, which will bring 3,000 megawatts (MW) of Wyoming’s wind-generated electricity — roughly equivalent to three-fourths of the electric power used every day in Los Angeles — to utilities in more densely populated regions of the Desert Southwest. The project itself is a straightforward concept, but it wasn’t until April 10, 2023 — 18 years after it was first proposed — that TransWest received its final federal approval. We looked at the project’s long road to approval, the difficulties in getting new transmission lines built and the long-term repercussions of those delays.

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