September 29, 2021

BLM lease sale seeks to expand geothermal energy in New Mexico

As part of an effort to increase renewable energy, the Bureau of Land Management will hold a virtual geothermal lease sale this fall for three parcels totaling nearly 4,000 acres. These parcels are located in Hidalgo and Sierra counties in southwest New Mexico.

This comes after President Joe Biden issued an executive order to increase renewable and clean energy sources. Additionally, the Energy Act of 2020 directed the BLM to permit 25 gigawatts of solar, wind and geothermal on public lands no later than 2025.

According to the BLM, as of May there were 36 wind projects and 37 solar projects on federal lands across the United States. There are also nearly 50 geothermal projects. These wind, solar and geothermal projects produce more than 12 gigawatts of renewable energy.

New Mexico is one of seven states that, as of 2020, had geothermal electricity generation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

New Mexico’s existing geothermal projects on BLM land include the Lightning Dock Geothermal Resource Area in Hidalgo County, which provides power to the Public Service Company of New Mexico. This geothermal project was the subject of a Searchlight New Mexico story in 2019. Searchlight interviewed Hidalgo County residents who were concerned about the geothermal project impacting water quality.

While the lease sale will give companies the rights to develop the resource, further environmental reviews must take place before the projects can become reality. This includes reviews during the permit to drill application process.

The new lease sale, which opens at 8 a.m. on Nov. 18, could help with economic development in the state and in Hidalgo and Sierra counties.

According to the BLM press release announcing the sale, 50 percent of the funds from the leases go to the state and 25 percent will go to the county. The remaining 25 percent goes to the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

The lease sales will take place online at energynet.com.

More information is available by contacting BLM Land Law Examiner Lauren Leib at 505-954-2234 or lleib@blm.gov.