Feds want solar energy development on 13,000 acres in southern Colorado

Matt Whittaker

Solar energy zones in south-central Colorado. (The Fourmile East area is no longer available for utility-scale solar development.)Screenshot from a BLM website.

By Matt Whittaker / NewsBreak Denver

(Alamosa, Colo.) The Bureau of Land Management is soliciting interest for utility-scale solar energy development on more than 13,000 acres of public land in the San Louis Valley of south-central Colorado near Alamosa.

That acreage is part of the agency’s largest solar development solicitation since designating 17 solar energy zones in Colorado and other states in a 2012 planning effort. 

“Scaling up support for responsible renewable energy production is one of the BLM’s top priorities as we work across the Department of the Interior to lead the way in creating a clean energy economy in the United States,” BLM director Tracy Stone-Manning said. The agency is housed inside the Interior Department.

Solar farms would sit on rural land

In Colorado, the specific areas identified for solicitation are:

  • 9,712 acres in the Antonito Southeast Solar Energy Zone
  • 1,064 acres in the DeTilla Gulch Solar Energy Zone
  • 2,650 acres in the Los Mogotes East Solar Energy Zone.

Located in Conejos County on the New Mexico border, the Antonito Southeast zone sits in a semi-arid basin of undeveloped scrubland used for BLM-authorized grazing, the agency said. Alamosa, located about 34 miles to the north, is the biggest nearby town.

The DeTilla Gulch zone in Saguache County lies in a high-elevation basin in the Rocky Mountains. Alamosa is about 50 miles to the south. 

Also located in a high-elevation basin in the Rocky Mountains, the Los Mogotes East zone in Conejos County about 12 miles north of the New Mexico border lies in a flat alluvial fan topped by scrubland. Alamosa is about 22 miles to the northeast.

The bureau is also requesting development interest in Nevada and New Mexico as part of the recent solicitation announcement.

Areas selected for utility-scale solar potential

The areas are part of about 870,000 acres of federal public land the BLM has allocated “as environmentally preferable for solar leasing based on the areas’ high potential for solar energy, suitability for utility-scale solar facilities and limited potential for natural and cultural resource conflicts.”

The zones, analyzed and designated in the agency’s 2012 Western Solar Plan, were established after discussions with conservation organizations, state and local governments, tribal nations, solar energy industry representatives, and federal agencies. 

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Matt Whittaker writes about natural resources industries, including oil and gas, mining, renewable energy, agriculture and cannabis. He's been based in the Denver metro area since 2013. You can follow him on Twitter @mattswhittaker.

Lakewood, CO

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