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Key Economic Benefits of Renewable Energy on Public Lands – Appendices

Appendix 1 – updated information on approved and operating geothermal projects on public lands

BLM’s online spreadsheet of approved geothermal projects is outdated. Updated data were collected from BLM resource specialists for this report. See Appendix 1 spreadsheet

Appendix 2 – methods for estimating homes powered by geothermal projects

The report authors used methods from an unpublished analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to estimate the homes powered by geothermal projects. See Appendix 2 spreadsheet.

Appendix 3 – LR2000 wind and solar rents search methods

Here is the step by step methodology the report authors used to generate LR2000 reports for acreage rents and megawatt capacity fees for wind testing and development and solar development on BLM lands:

  1. To search for solar development rents, on the LR2000 home page, click on Pub CR Case Action Info, then click it again on the drop down that opens
  2. On the Mandatory Criteria page that opens, click each state individually to select all the Admin States
    • Then click the drop down button for Case Type Code and click More/Search
    • On the pop-up box that appears, click More…
    • To search for solar development rents, scroll down to select 283103 – ROW SOLAR DEV GRANT, click the “>” button to move it to the Selected box, then click OK
    • Set Action Dates between 01/01/1900 to 12/31/2019
    • Set Action Codes as 111 – RENTAL RECEIVED, 765 – ACREAGE RENT RECEIVED, and 766 – CAPACITY FEE RECEIVED.
    • Click OK to run the report
  3. On the Report page that opens, on the dropdown menu at the top called “Select a View output you would like to see”, select Casetype/Serial Number Report with Action Remarks
    • Scroll down to the bottom of the report page and click Export, then select Data, CSV format
    • Import the exported CSV file into Excel
    • Do a “Text to Columns” action on the rent amounts column to move the remarks after the semicolon into a new column, which allows you to then sum the rents column
  4. To search for wind development rents, use the same method but input 283003 – ROW WIND DEV GRANT as the Case Type Code
  5. To search for wind testing rents, use the same method but input both 283001 ROW-WIND SITE TEST and 283002 ROW-WIND PROJ TEST as the Case Type Code

Appendix 4 – Office of Natural Resource Revenue data on geothermal revenue

The Office of Natural Resource Revenue (ONRR) required submission of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to access information on geothermal revenues collected more than 10 years ago. See Appendix 4 spreadsheet for the data provided in response to the FOIA request; the spreadsheet also includes a tab showing the revenue in 2019 dollars.

Appendix 5 – methods for estimating capital costs for renewable energy projects

Capital costs were estimated for projects currently in operation that were constructed in 1996 or later (EIA estimates for capital costs are only available back to 1996, so capital costs for projects constructed prior to 1996 are not included). Cost figures were based on the total overnight cost metrics in the Assumptions to the Annual Energy Outlook (AAEO) as published each year by the US Energy Information Administration (USEIA) in conjunction with the Annual Energy Outlook.

To calculate the approximate capital cost for each project constructed in 1996 or later, the total generation capacity (kW) was multiplied by the total overnight cost per kW for the specific technology type (solar PV, solar thermal, on-shore wind, or geothermal) as published by the USEIA AAEO.  The year of initiation (start of construction) was determined as follows: geothermal – the updated version of BLM’s geothermal project spreadsheet (see Appendix 1) shows the “date operational,” and a one-year construction period was assumed; wind – BLM’s wind project spreadsheet shows the year the ROW grant was issued, and construction was assumed to start in that year; solar: historically, BLM’s solar project spreadsheet showed the “date operational,” and a one-year construction period was assumed, except for the Crescent Dunes project, which was known to have commenced construction in 2011 although it did not become operational until 2015.  All costs were valued to 2019 dollars and summed.  See Appendix 5 solar capital costs spreadsheet; Appendix 5 wind capital costs spreadsheet; Appendix 5 geothermal capital costs spreadsheet.

Appendix 6 – solar PV operations and maintenance jobs estimates from projects that applied for Nevada’s Renewable Energy Tax Abatement Program

Average solar PV operations and maintenance jobs/MW were estimated by averaging the operations and maintenance jobs reported by 19 solar PV projects that applied for the Nevada Renewable Energy Tax Abatement Program. Job estimates were taken from the application document for each project. The total MW capacity of these projects is 2,241, and the total operations and maintenance jobs reported is 60. 60 operations and maintenance jobs divided by 2,241 MW equals 0.027 O&M jobs/MW. See Appendix 6 spreadsheet.

Appendix 7 – methods for estimating the Social Cost of Carbon value for solar projects

The Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) is a dollar estimate of the long-term benefits of the damage avoided caused by a one ton decrease in emissions in a given year.  As described by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the SCC is “an estimate, in dollars, of the long term damage caused by a one-ton increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in a given year; or viewed another way, the benefits of reducing CO2 emissions by that amount in a given year. The SCC is intended to be a comprehensive estimate of climate change damages that includes, among other costs, the changes in net agricultural productivity, risks to human health, and property damages from increased flood risks.” (NAS).

To calculate the SCC value for solar projects located on public lands through the end of 2019, we first estimate the amount of avoided carbon dioxide emissions for each year that an individual solar project has been in operation by using operators’ published expectations of annual emissions avoided based on planned annual production for each project. (See Appendix 7 spreadsheet tab 7.1. “Solar projects avoided CO2e” for by project sources for annual emissions avoided.) Note that for all projects except for Crescent Dunes, the full MW capacity was assumed to come online at the same time once project operations commenced. Due to various issues, Crescent Dunes has produced less electricity than expected since beginning operation at the end of 2015. As such, similar to Boretti 2019, we use production data from EIA to calculate the avoided emissions stemming from actual production at Crescent Dunes each year (See Appendix 7 spreadsheet tab 7.4 “Crescent Dunes”). 

Second, we calculate the economic benefit of these avoided emissions for each year of operation by individual project by multiplying annual emissions avoided for each project by the average annual per ton dollar value of avoided CO2 emissions established by the Interagency Working Group (IWG) on Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases under Executive Order 12866.

As the IWG explains “[the SCC] increases over time because future emissions are expected to produce larger incremental damages as physical and economic systems become more stressed in response to greater climatic change, and because GDP is growing over time and many damage categories are modeled as proportional to gross GDP” (p.16). We calculate the annual SCC total per project for each year in operation separately in order to use the specific SCC per ton present value of economic damages for the exact year (2012 to 2019) that we estimate the avoided emissions would have been emitted if it had not been for these solar projects. All values are adjusted for inflation, applying a cumulative rate of inflation of 23.2% to adjust from 2007 to 2019 dollars. (See Appendix 7 spreadsheet tab 7.2 “SCC discount rates”).

The SCC varies significantly based on the annual average discount rate employed and whether the estimate includes global or only domestic impacts. The higher the discount rate, the less value is placed on future damages caused by climate change. Furthermore, limiting the value to only include domestic damages rather than global impacts dramatically lowers the SCC. Given the global nature of damages of climate change due to greenhouse gases regardless of which country originally emitted a given ton of GHG, economic experts suggest calculating SCC using a global value and at most a 2 or 3% average discount rate to account for the cost of climate impacts to future generations.

We use the IWG August 2016 update of SCC annual global values that include the range of estimates across four commonly used discount rates (5%, 3%, 2.5%, and high impact 95th percentile at 3%). Same as the IWG, the central value is the average of the social cost of carbon estimates based on using a 3% average discount rate. We also include a 7% discount rate estimate, even though it greatly underestimates the monetary value of damages caused by a ton of CO2, as it is preferred by the Trump Administration. To calculate the corresponding domestic SCC value of estimated future costs of damages resulting from a ton of emissions to the United States alone, we use a standard 10% estimate of each discount rate. In total, we show in a range of SCC values across 10 estimates (5 discount rates including global impacts and the 5 discount rates limited to domestic impacts).

Social Cost of Carbon

Because the present value of economic damages associated with carbon emissions change over time, a separate set of estimates is presented for each emissions year. The cost per ton values in the table above are multiplied by the assumed emissions avoided for each project for each year between 2012 and 2019.

Finally, we sum the estimated present dollar value of the emissions avoided due to all of the solar projects combined (see Appendix 7 spreadsheet [AD12] tab 7.3 “Solar projects SCC calcs”).  The table below displays the wide range of SCC values estimated due to the solar energy generated on public lands through 2019 when calculating with varying discount rates and including global or only domestic impacts. It is important to see the range of estimates based on varying methods to calculate the SCC, but in keeping with leading economic recommendations in the report we use a central discount rate of 3% and include global impacts. Using these expert guidelines, the calculated social cost of avoided carbon dioxide emissions due to solar generation on public lands through 2019 totals over $544 million.

Social cost of avoided carbon






Boretti, Alberto. 2019. A realistic expectation of electricity production from current design concentrated solar power solar with thermal energy storage. Energy Storage. 03 May 2019.

National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

Technical Update of the Social Cost of Carbon for Regulatory Impact Analysis Under Executive Order 12866 (May 2013, Revised August 2016).

U.S. Energy Information Administration. EIA Electricity Data Browser. Retrieved December 2019.