DOE looking to lease INL land to private developers for clean energy projects - East Idaho News

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DOE looking to lease INL land to private developers for clean energy projects

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IDAHO FALLS – The U.S. Department of Energy wants to partner with the private sector in developing commercial clean energy projects.

Last week, the DOE issued a request for information from industry partners in hopes of leasing land on the Arco desert for that purpose. The Department owns 890-square-miles of land, which is used by the Idaho National Laboratory.

One of the Biden administration’s goals is to establish the U.S. as a world leader in clean energy and achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Kathryn Huff, the assistant secretary with the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy, says this effort will allow them to “use the resources (they) already have to boost (their) various (clean) energy emissions.”

“It sets a more aggressive goal for federal government activities than the rest of the nation,” Huff said to industry professionals at the Idaho National Lab’s Idaho Falls campus Wednesday morning. “We’d like to get to a 100% carbon-free electric grid by 2035 for the nation. For the federal government, we’re accelerating that to 2030 so (it) can really be in the lead.”

RELATED | Upgrade of INL facility will help provide clean energy for America’s future

There is no limit on the length of these leases, Huff says, meaning the amount of time they are in effect can vary, depending on the project.

And since the department already owns the land it is not required to lease it at “fair market value.”

“This capability that we have to lease the land at lower than fair market value is an in-kind contribution that may be quite valuable,” said Huff. “The developer may pay a great deal, but ideally DOE … should be able to offset costs they otherwise couldn’t.”

Specific parcels of land are designated for clean energy development. See which ones in the map below.

INL map
Map provided by the INL

At least a dozen professionals were in attendance at the DOE’s Clean Energy Information Day inside the INL’s Event Center. During the event, INL director John Wagner outlined the site’s resources and upcoming reactor projects over the next decade, and how industry partners and community leaders can help leverage their efforts in developing clean energy.

advanced reactor projects pic
Slide from Wagner’s presentation about upcoming reactor projects. | Rett Nelson, EastIdahoNews.com

“The limits are really only what our imagination and your value proposition represent on what we can ultimately do,” Wagner said. “In my vision … we would have solar, wind, geothermal, small nuclear systems, hydrogen production, carbon capture all securely operating.”

Idaho Falls Power has had a relationship with the INL for many years. Not only does it provide electricity for its Idaho Falls campus, it also works with the site on various research projects.

Bear Prairie, IFP’s general manager, tells EastIdahoNews.com they’re looking at several collaborative projects with the INL in the future. One of those involves placing new reactors on the Yellowstone Peak Generation Plant, a 135-acre parcel designed to generate on-demand energy during peak periods.

“Peaking resources are needed particularly during the winter heating season in the early morning and late evening and during the summer cooling season after 5 p.m. when solar generation in the western grid fades,” the company’s page about the plant says.

The plant was created with the INL to develop cutting-edge, clean energy technologies.

yellowstone peak generation plant
A Google Earth photo of the property where the Yellowstone Peak Generation Plant is located. | Courtesy Idaho Falls Power

Huff says a critical component of the DOE’s clean energy partnership is their relationship with local governments. DOE land operated by the INL was once migratory ancestral land for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Over the years, Wagner says they’ve worked with the tribes to preserve cultural resources.

The tribes have a huge interest in clean energy projects, he says, and he describes their relationship as “excellent.”

“They have a very strong passion for preserving the land. We’ve found them to be great partners with a strong interest in engaging in the projects themselves, as well as the future of what that means to their members,” Wagner explains.

EastIdahoNews.com reached out to the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes for comment but did not get a response.

The effort to lease land to industry professionals for clean energy production comes days after Idaho was selected as one of 31 tech hubs across the country because of its leadership in building a clean energy future.

Idaho National Lab director John Wagner
INL director John Wagner | Courtesy INL

Huff says the private partnerships have the potential to bring many jobs to the area, depending on the project.

“Everyone here is interested in having our eyes opened to what could be possible. Think big. Think creatively,” Huff told the crowd. “It can create real American jobs, it can create real leadership on our industrial plan in the U.S. to get to net zero and it can support this local community and others.”

Industry leaders have until Dec. 15 to apply. Project approvals could take up to a year. Those interested in learning more can click here.

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