US government to hold auction for solar projects in Colorado

The U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will hold the first competitive auction for public lands in two designated Solar Energy Zones in the state of Colorado on Oct. 24.

The move is seen as part of the Obama Administration’s strategy to spur renewable energy development on public lands and the White House’s plan to reduce carbon emissions, the BLM said.

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 (1,499 hectares) in the De Tilla Gulch and Los Mogotes East Solar Energy Zones in the San Luis Valley’s Conejos and Saguache counties.

The Interior and Energy Departments are looking to establish utility-scale solar development on public lands that will be capable of producing 20 MW or more of energy. The competitive bidding process is required for new solar development applications in Solar Energy Zones.

"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 two-year planning effort between the Interior and Energy Departments to pave the way for utility-scale solar energy development on 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 and a process for considering additional zones.

The Interior Department approved an 18th Solar Energy Zone as part of the Restoration Design Energy Project in Arizona in January. The new West Chocolate Mountains REEA, announced last week, brings the national total to 19.

The minimum bonus bids for the three parcels are $3,352 (€2,511)for De Tilla Gulch; $4,035 for the north parcel of Los Mogotes East; and $4,284 for Los Mogotes East’s south parcel.

The Colorado Solar Energy Zone auction will take place at at the BLM Colorado State Office in Lakewood, Colorado.