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BLM solar plan could boost local economy

Posted: Wednesday, Aug 28th, 2013

Courier staff writer

 VALLEY — Two Valley Solar Energy Zones (SEZ) will be the first of many Bureau of Land Management (BLM) competitive auctions for the designated public lands, stemming from 2012 federal legislation.

The sealed and oral bid auction, scheduled for Oct. 24 in Lakewood, will choose 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 SEZ in Conejos and Saguache Counties, according to reports. The minimum bonus bids for the three parcels are $3,352 for De Tilla Gulch, $4,035 for the north parcel of Los Mogotes East and $4,284 for Los Mogotes East’s south parcel or about $63 an acre.

The federal government is looking to establish utility-scale solar development on public lands capable of producing 20 MW or more of energy within reach of transmission, and the competitive bidding process is required for new solar development applications on BLM lands.

The auction comes after a two-year planning effort between the U.S. Interior and Energy Departments to create access for utility-scale solar energy development on public lands, according to reports. Approved in October 2012, The Western Solar Plan established 17 SEZs with access to existing or planned transmission, incentives for development and a process for considering additional zones. In January, the Interior Department approved an 18th SEZ in Arizona, and later a 19th SEZ in California’s West Chocolate Mountains. The zones are expected to produce 5.9 GW when completed, which is enough electricity to power nearly two million homes. In total, the solar blueprint estimates a total deployment of 23.7 GW from the 17 zones along with the variance areas, which is enough energy to power seven million American homes.

The Valley is a solar hot spot, which Alamosa County has proven through its four solar farms, and it is no surprise the federal government is looking to boost domestic energy production between potato fields and rangeland.

For the complete article see the 08-28-2013 issue.

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