The U.S. Bureau of Land Management will host the first competitive auction for public lands in two Solar Energy Zones in Colorado on Oct. 24.
The auction will award preference rights to submit a right-of-way application and a plan of development for commercial solar energy projects on three parcels of BLM-administered land, totaling 3,705 acres, in Conejos and Saguache counties in South Central Colorado. The company with the winning bid at the auction will then submit a project proposal that will be subject to environmental review and public comment.
“These Solar Energy Zones (SEZs) are part of our effort to make sure that we’re developing clean energy in the right places and in the right ways,” said BLM’s Principal Deputy Director Neil Kornze, in an Oct. 23 statement. “Thursday’s competitive auction is an important milestone as we seek to accelerate the development of clean energy on our public lands that hold enormous potential for the solar power and for generating jobs and revenue for local communities.”
The BLM auction is the result of a two-year planning effort by the Department of the Interior and the Department of Energy to pave the way for utility-scale solar development on public lands. The Western Solar Plan, approved in October 2012, created 17 SEZs in six states where there is the greatest potential for solar energy, fewest resource conflicts and access to existing or planned transmission. Since then, two additional zones have been established, one each in California and Arizona. The competitive bidding process is required for development applications in the SEZs.
If fully developed, the two Colorado SEZs could involve development of about 400 MW of generating capacity.
In addition to establishing the Western Solar Plan, the Interior Dept. has worked to stand up other renewable energy on public lands, approving 47 projects since 2009, including more than 8,000 MW from 25 solar projects, 4,700 MW from 10 wind projects, and about 600 MW from 12 geothermal projects.
“President Obama challenged us to bring 20,000 megawatts of renewable energy on line by 2020. We’ve made great strides toward meeting that goal, and this effort will bring us one step closer,” Kornze said.