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BLM to lease solar energy parcels in Colorado

Large-scale solar could add to the state’s renewable energy mix

Solar energy development zones in western U.S.

Solar energy zones around the southwestern U.S. would yield thousands of megawatts of electricity if fully developed. Click on the map to visit a BLM website with links to detailed maps of the specific areas.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — After years of planning, the Bureau of Land Management is holding the first competitive auction for development of solar energy on public lands in Colorado.

Under Ken Salazar‘s leadership, the U.S. Department of Interior established a regulatory framework for solar development with a programmatic study that resulted in the designation of solar energy zones.

The Oct. 23 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.  Continue reading

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Colorado: BLM to auction leases for solar power plants

Up-front analysis of solar energy zones could accelerate projects

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Utility scale solar energy could help reduce U.S. dependence on fossil fuels.

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. Continue reading

Feds map wind, solar energy zones in Arizona

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New plan focuses on previously disturbed sites with few resource conflicts

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The Obama administration’s push to develop more renewable energy resources reached another milestone this week, as the Interior Department finalized designation of 192,000 acres in Arizona as potentially suitable for utility-scale solar and wind energy development.

Any subsequent proposals for specific solar or wind energy projects will still need to undergo a site-specific environmental review.

According to the Interior Department, the lands identified in Arizona include previously disturbed sites (primarily former agricultural areas) and lands with low resource sensitivity and few environmental conflicts. Federal land managers in Arizona spent three years analyzing  disturbed land and other areas with few known resource conflicts that could accommodate commercial renewable energy projects. Continue reading

Feds hope to speed up permits for renewable energy projects

 

Wind farming in the West.

Interior Department teams up with Defense Department to develop solar and wind on military lands

By Summit Voice

Continuing to push for utility scale renewable energy projects, the Obama administration said this week it will seek expedited review and approval for seven wind and solar projects
that would generate a total of 5,000 megawatts of electricity — providing enough power for about 1.5 million homes.

The federal Office of Management and Budget is charged with overseeing the government-wide effort to make the permitting more efficient, with a target date of October, 2014 for completing the federal permitting for the projects in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Wyoming under a March, 2012 executive order.

Almost at the same time, the Department of Interior and Department of Defense announced an agreement aimed at ncouraging appropriate development of renewable energy projects on public lands set aside for defense-related purposes, and other onshore and offshore areas near military installations. Continue reading

Feds finalize sweeping western solar energy plan

Going solar …

Final documents for solar zoning released

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The federal government has finalized a sweeping plan for renewable energy development in the West that provides a framework for permitting utility scale solar projects in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah.

“This blueprint for landscape-level planning is about facilitating faster, smarter utility-scale solar development on America‟s public lands,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “This is a key milestone in building a sustainable foundation for utility-scale solar energy development and conservation on public lands over the next two decades.” Continue reading

BLM to hold Colorado hearing on western solar plan

Agency responds to citizen requests for local session

Large-scale industrial solar development has the potential to change the character of rural areas.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —Colorado residents will get one more chance to offer input on a plan that could potentially open more than 111,000 acres of public lands in Colorado for industrial solar development.In response to strong public outcry, the Bureau of Land Management recently reversed its decision not to hold a Colorado public hearing on a supplemental environmental study to the Draft Solar Programatic Environmental Impact Statement in Colorado. The meeting is set for Jan. 11, 2012 at the Inn of the Rio Grande in Alamosa (7 p.m.) Continue reading

Scientists urge caution on Southwest solar development

USGS report says impacts of large-scale installations are not well-understood

Potential for solar energy is high the desert Southwest, but there is also the risk of unintended impacts to rare wildlife.

Agassiz’s desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii). Large areas of desert tortoise habitat are developed or being evaluated for renewable energy development, including for wind and solar energy. PHOTO COURTESY JEFFREY E. LOVICH.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —Ramping up large-scale solar power installations could have unintended environmental consequences, including significant impact to wildlife, according to a new study by the US Geological Survey’s Southwest Biological Science Center.

The report calls for more extensive studies on how to balance solar energy development with resource conservation before rushing headlong into the renewable energy future. It can downloaded at this website for the remainder of the month.

The issues raised with regard to rare and endangered species like the Agassiz’s desert tortoise present a conundrum of sorts, for if fossil fuel use continues unabated, the climate may become too warm for those species to survive — solar energy development or not.

Nonetheless, the USGS researchers present a reasoned argument for assessments both onsite and offsite impacts, as well as the effects of include construction and decommissioning, saying, “to date almost no peer-reviewed studies on the impacts of solar installations specifically.” Continue reading

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