Renewable Energy Program

Tehachapi Wind FarmThe Renewable Energy Program is an interdivisional, interdisciplinary team that provides coordinated participation and leadership on renewable energy-related programs, initiatives, and projects affecting the Commission’s jurisdiction on both sovereign and school lands.  California’s renewable portfolio standard requires investor-owned utilities and electric service providers to increase procurement from eligible renewable energy resources to 33% of total procurement by 2020.  The benefits of renewable energy to California’s economy and environment are enormous.  The Commission is proud to partner with other agencies and contribute to achieving the State’s ambitious renewable energy goals.

Currently, the Program’s three main areas of focus are marine renewable energy, desert renewable energy, and geothermal energy. Staff in the Program work on site-specific applications for renewable energy project developments, participate in stakeholder and interagency working groups that recommend and/or develop policy to promote the scientifically-based advancement of renewable energy in the marine environment, and participate in the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan.  Future efforts could include review and implementation of solar and wind projects in the desert, participation in partnerships and/or implementation of programs to develop offshore wave, tidal, and wind resources, and scientific evaluation/exploration of other renewable energy resources including biomass and algae.

Marine Renewable Energy

Sovereign lands under the Commission’s jurisdiction and subject to the Public Trust Doctrine include the tide and submerged lands adjacent to the entire coast and offshore islands of the State from the mean high tide line to three nautical miles offshore. The planning, permitting, and development of emerging technologies like marine renewable energy present a challenge to both project proponents and resource managers, including the Commission, as the State seeks to balance clean energy goals with environmental protection. Although marine renewable energy devices have been deployed in several parts of the world, especially Europe, no devices have been deployed in California state waters to date. In response to increasing interest in offshore wind, wave, and tidal energy development as the State moves toward a clean energy economy, the Renewable Energy Program staff at the Commission has undertaken a number of activities to ensure coordination and leadership in both the scientific investigation and the regulatory pathways necessary to developing these technologies. As part of this commitment, Renewable Energy Program staff is a member of the Marine Renewable Energy Working Group. The goals of the Working Group are to:

  • Address uncertainties in regulatory processes for marine renewable energy projects in California;
  • Address the information needs of state agencies and stakeholders to inform potential impacts and user conflicts with marine renewable energy projects; and
  • Facilitate the development of agreements and joint state-federal committees to improve coordination of state and federal permitting processes.

In 2013, Commission staff completed an informational report titled Marine Renewable Energy and Environmental Impacts: Advancing California's Goals. The report summarizes information that is currently known about the major types of marine renewable energy and their expected environmental impacts.

Desert Renewable Energy

With the passage of Assembly Bill (AB) 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, and the increased public awareness about climate change, Commission staff expects more interest in the long-term leasing of school lands* for renewable energy projects. Because of its ownership of over 340,000 acres of school lands in the Colorado and Mojave desert regions of the State, the Commission is participating in the development of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP), a multi-agency, State-Federal planning effort mandated  by former Governor Schwarzenegger in 2008 via Executive Order S-14-08.  Participation in the DRECP allows the Commission to ensure the final plan considers the Commission’s statutory and policy directives, including the School Land Bank Act and the Commission's Resolution supporting the environmentally responsible development of its lands for renewable energy related projects.

NEWS!! The Public Review Draft of the DRECP EIR/EIS is now available. The comment period runs from September 26, 2014 through January 9, 2015. Visit drecp.org to download and view the documents, learn how to comment, and learn when and where public meetings will be held. The public can also learn about the DRECP by visiting the DRECP Gateway, an interactive mapping application that allows users to review the geospatial data and models used to develop the DRECP. The Commission is an applicant under the DRECP for federal and state incidental take permits pursuant to the Federal Endangered Species Act and the California Natural Community Conservation Planning Act. if approved, the permits would allow the Commission to streamline its leasing of DRECP-compliant projects on school lands located in designated DRECP development areas.

Important Dates:

  • September 26, 2014 - Public review period begins for the DRAFT DRECP and EIR EIS

  • October 9, 2014 - Informational webinar for the Draft DRECP and EIR/EIS

  • October 20,2014 through November 13, 2014 - Public workshops for the Draft DRECP and EIR/EIS (see drecp.org/meetings for meeting locations)

  • January 9, 2015 - Public review period ends for the Draft DRECP and ERI/EIS

Related to these efforts, Renewable Energy Program staff is also implementing the provisions of AB 982 (Skinner), which enacted chapter 2 of Division 7.7 of the Public Resources Code, and requires Commission staff, with the cooperation of the Department of the Interior, to enter into a memorandum of agreement (MOA) to facilitate land exchanges that consolidate school land parcels into contiguous holdings. This law also provides that in preparing any land exchange proposal, priority must be given to exchanges that are best suited for renewable energy development projects and that are consistent with the DRECP. Environmentally sensitive lands and lands with extraordinary cultural or biological resources will also be identified, with the intent of consolidating these lands and providing for their long-term protection. Since the MOA was signed in May 2012, staffs of the Commission and the Bureau of Land Management have been developing a list of parcels to include in an initial exchange proposal and expect to have a formal agreement to proceed with the exchange in place by the end of 2014.Solar Facility

Additional Information and Resources:

* School lands are lands that the Commission leases for the benefit of the California Teachers’ Retirement Fund (see Public Resources Code § 6217.5).  School lands may be leased for renewable energy development.

Geothermal Energy

The Mineral Resources Management Division (MRMD) administers the Commission’s Geothermal Program, in coordination with Renewable Energy Program staff in DEPM and the Legal Division.

MRMD and DEPM staffs in the Renewable Energy Program are also participating in the development of a comprehensive geothermal web portal and clearinghouse, called the “Geothermal Regulatory Roadmap” project, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Once this portal is active, users will have the opportunity to use the “wiki”-based platform to run searches/queries, find out what permits are needed and what process to follow, and explore other useful site resources. This page will provide a link to the Roadmap project once it is launched.