Federal Geothermal Power Plant Siting, Construction, & Regulation(7-FD)
Developers seeking to construct a power plant on federal lands must comply with various requirements and obtain the necessary permits. If the developer has obtained a federal geothermal lease, then they must comply with the Utilization Application Process through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Before commencing operations of a geothermal power plant, the developer must obtain a Commercial Use Permit approved by BLM. Developers may choose to seek status as a Qualifying Facility under the Public Utilities Regulatory Act (PURPA). Developers may qualify as Exempt Wholesale Generators if they are independent power producers that exclusively sell energy to wholesale customers and complete the self-certification process overseen by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
Developers must undergo the Utilization Application Process with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) if they have obtained a federal geothermal lease. As part of the Utilization Application Process, developers of geothermal plants will obtain the following: Utilization Plan, Facility Construction Permit 43 CFR 3272, Site License 43 CFR 3273, and Commercial Use Permit 43 CFR 3274. Developers will be required to create a Utilization Plan, Operation Plan, and Draft Facility Construction Permit to submit to the BLM for review. Additional information must be submitted to the BLM to obtain a Site License. 43 CFR 3273.15. Developers must participate in an application coordination meeting, which may be combined with the required on-site visit. Developers must complete the environmental review process under the National Environmental Policy Act before the Site License and Facility Construction Permit will be approved by the BLM. Developers are required to obtain a Bonding Document or Letter of Credit for any geothermal electric generation facility. After the plant has been tested and is fully operational, the plant can be commissioned for production.
Developers must obtain a Commercial Use Permit approved by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) before commencing commercial operations under a federal lease, a federal unit, or a utilization facility. 43 CFR 3274.10. Developers must submit all documentation outlined in 43 CFR 3274.11 to the BLM for review in order to obtain a Commercial Use Permit. If another federal agency manages the surface, then the BLM will consult with that agency during review of the application materials. Once the BLM issues Commercial Use Permit, the developer will be required to comply with operating requirements outlined in 43 CFR 3275.
Developers may choose to seek Qualifying Facility (QF) status under the PURPA, which allows certain benefits under the law. For example, QFs have the right to sell energy or capacity to a utility, the right to purchase certain services from utilities, and relief from certain regulatory burdens. Developers seeking QF status must submit a properly completed Form No. 556 to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). 18 CFR 131.80. Requirements for QF status vary depending on whether the facility is a small power production facility or a cogeneration facility. A small power production facility is a facility generating 80MW or less with a primary energy source of hydro, solar, wind, biomass, waste, or geothermal resources. Specific requirements for small power production facilities are outlined in 18 CFR 292.204. A cogeneration facility is a facility that produces both electricity and steam, requirements are outlined in 18 CFR 292.205. Developers are required to provide notice of the filling of a completed Form No. 556 to each electric utility which it expects will interconnect, transmit, or sell electric energy to the facility and to any state regulatory authority which will be affected. Following review, FERC will issue an order granting or denying certification. Any denial will outline the specific requirements that the facility does not meet.
Developers may qualify as Exempt Wholesale Generators (EWG) if they are independent power producers that exclusively sell energy to wholesale customers and complete the self-certification process overseen by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Obtaining EWG status can exempt the generator from certain reporting and accounting regulations under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and allows the generator to sell power at market-based rates. Developers seeking EWG status may file a Notice of Self-Certification with FERC demonstrating that they satisfy the definition of an EWG. Developers who file a Notice of Self-Certification in good faith will have temporary EWG status. Developers must also file a copy of the Notice of Self-Certification with the state regulatory authority in the state where the facility is located. After FERC and any state regulatory authority (if necessary) make a determination on the Notice of Self-Certification, the developer receives EWG status.
Determine Which Federal Permits Apply
Use this overview flowchart and following steps to learn which federal and state permits apply to your projects.
Permitting at a Glance
|Power Plant Siting:||Utilization Application Process||Utilization Application Process|
|Power Plant Siting Agency:||Bureau of Land Management||Bureau of Land Management|
|Public Utility Regulatory Authority:||Federal Energy Regulatory Commission||Federal Energy Regulatory Commission|
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