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DOE Reduces Regulatory Hurdles For Energy Storage, Transmission, and Solar Projects

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is amending DOE’s list of categories of projects which, because they typically do not have significant environmental impacts, qualify for the simplest form of environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). DOE is simplifying the environmental review process for certain energy storage systems such as battery systems, transmission line upgrades, and solar photovoltaic systems. In support of the Biden-Harris Administration’s goal to promote the development of clean energy and supporting infrastructure, DOE is taking these steps to reduce the cost and time for environmental analysis incurred by DOE, project developers, and the public for these projects.  

DOE based the proposed changes on years of experience evaluating the environmental impacts of these types of projects through research, conducting environmental reviews, and engaging with industry, local communities, and other government agencies. DOE carefully considered its experience with energy storage, transmission line upgrades, and solar energy projects before simplifying the environmental review process. Under the changes, DOE will continue to look closely at each proposed project while being able to complete its environmental review responsibilities in a faster and less expensive manner. 

Energy Storage Systems 

Energy storage systems can be used to integrate renewable energy into the electric grid, to help generation facilities operate at optimal levels, provide protection from power interruptions, and reduce reliance on less efficient sources of generation that would otherwise run only at peak times. The changes DOE is announcing today promote the development of these storage systems by simplifying the environmental review process for building, operating, upgrading, or decommissioning battery or flywheel energy storage systems within or near areas that have already been developed. 

Transmission Line Upgrades 

DOE recognizes that upgrading and rebuilding transmission lines can extend their useful life, reduce the need for new power lines, and update the Nation’s power grid with newer, more efficient, and more resilient technology. The revisions to DOE’s category for transmission line upgrades will capitalize on these advantages, which can increase transmission capacity, improve transmission efficiency, enhance energy resilience, avoid or reduce adverse environmental impacts, and reduce cost to consumers. DOE’s changes remove existing limitations on the length of existing powerlines that are eligible for the simplest form of NEPA review, give developers the option to relocate 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.  

Solar Photovoltaic Systems 

DOE’s changes increase the size of solar projects that qualify for the simplest environmental reviews under NEPA.  

Additional information is available at /nepa/doe-nepa-categorical-exclusion-rulemaking-2024

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