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BLM to auction Colorado land for solar development

BLM to auction Colorado land for solar developmentThe United States Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management announced today that it will auction off leases for 3,705 acres of public lands in Colorado for solar development this fall.

This will be the BLM’s first competitive auction for of leases for Solar Energy Zone land.

The land is divided between two sites, the De Tilla Gulch and Los Mogotes East Solar Energy Zones in the San Luis Valley.

The Interior Department designated the areas Solar Energy Zones because of their proximity to transmission lines or planned transmission lines in a famously sunny region of the sate.

President Barack Obama’s administration has been proactively seeking out optimal solar energy regions and designating them Solar Energy Zones in a push to develop more utility-scale solar energy generation on public lands.

“As we double down on the unprecedented progress that the Obama administration has made on advancing clean energy, the Interior Department has an opportunity not only to cut carbon pollution, but also to advance important conservation goals," Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said last week at the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas.

The Department announced last week that it was designating another nearly 11,000-acre parcel of land near the Marine Corps’ Chocolate Mountain Gunnery Range in Southern California’s Imperial Valley as its 19th Solar Energy Zone.

While the department has been working to identify areas for solar development since the creation of the program in October of 2012, no actual development has started on the designated lands in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico or Utah.

Scheduled for Oct. 24, the parcels in Conejos and Saguache counties will be the first to be auctioned for lease.

Bidding for the De Tilla parcel will start at $3,352. The Los Magotes section has been divided into two separate parts with bidding for the north parcel starting at $4,035 and the south starting at $4,284.

Utility-scale solar developers, particularly those that specialize in early-stage construction investment, will be the likely bidders for the projects. Once the leases are finalized developers will have to go through all of the usual approval processes before they can begin developing solar projects on the land.

Since this is the first auction of Solar Energy Zone lands, it will be an important one for the BLM.

“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,” BLM Colorado State Director Helen Hankins said in a statement.

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