Up-front analysis of solar energy zones could accelerate projects
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Colorado has long been a leader in developing distributed solar energy resources, and the state may soon have it first commercial utility-scale solar energy projects.
Later this year (Oct. 24) the Bureau of Land Management will hold the first competitive auction for public lands in two solar energy zones in Colorado.
The sealed and oral bid auction will select a preferred applicant to submit a right-of-way application and plan of development for utility-scale solar energy projects on 3,705 acres in the De Tilla Gulch and Los Mogotes East Solar Energy Zones in Conejos and Saguache counties.
“This process will facilitate the Department’s priority approach to making appropriate public lands available for renewable energy development in the Solar Energy Zones and ensure a fair return to taxpayers for the commercial use of these lands,” said Helen Hankins, BLM Colorado State Director.
The BLM’s auction announcement comes after a 2-year planning effort between the Department of the Interior and the Department of Energy to pave the way for utility-scale solar energy development on the public lands.
The Western Solar Plan, approved in October 2012 created 17 Solar Energy Zones with access to existing or planned transmission, incentives for development within those zones and a process for considering additional zones. The competitive bidding process is required for new solar development applications in Solar Energy Zones.
Interior approved an 18th Solar Energy Zone as part of the Restoration Design Energy Project in Arizona in January 2013. The new West Chocolate Mountains REEA, announced earlier this week on August 13, brings the national total to 19.
The Colorado SEZ auction will take place at 10 a.m. on October 24 at the BLM Colorado State Office, 2850 Youngfield Street, Lakewood, Colorado 80215. The opening bid will be determined by the minimum bonus bid or the highest sealed bid, whichever is higher.
The minimum bonus bid for each parcel, which is valued at 5 percent of the rent value of the land for 1 year ($63 per acre for Saguache and Conejos counties) under the BLM’s interim solar rental policy, is based on the value of the interests acquired by the preferred applicant to file an application in a Solar Energy Zone. Minimum bonus bids for the three parcels are: De Tilla Gulch – $3,352; Los Mogotes East (north parcel) – $4,035; and Los Mogotes East (south parcel) – $4,284.
The bid statement format and a complete description of the bid process are contained in an Invitation for Bids package available on the BLM Colorado website at: http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/BLM_Programs/energy/renewable_energy.html.
More information regarding the Solar Energy Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS), can be found at http://solareis.anl.gov/ and detailed information about the SEZs, including maps, can be viewed and downloaded at: http://solareis.anl.gov/maps/index.cfm.