By Matt Whittaker / NewsBreak Denver
(Saguache County, Colo.) The Bureau of Land Management leased more than 1,000 acres of federal land in the San Luis Valley for utility-scale solar development, the agency said Friday.
North Carolina-based Pine Gate Renewables – which has solar developments in the Carolinas, Rhode Island and Oregon – paid $200,744.88 for the development rights for 1,064 acres in the De Tilla Gulch area of Saguache County.
The parcel was designated a solar energy zone in 2012, marking it as an area with “substantial” potential to produce utility-scale solar energy while also having “low” potential for environmental conflicts, ecological impacts or cultural resource conflicts, the bureau said.
The bureau said there was “significant” interest from multiple developers for the site.
“We had four energy companies with a real interest in developing solar power in the San Luis Valley,” BLM Rocky Mountain District manager Cathy Cook said Friday. “This is the first stage of the process and we are looking forward to working with Pine Gate Renewables as they develop their plan.”
The DeTilla Gulch zone lies in a high-elevation basin in the Rocky Mountains. The parcel is part of more than 13,000 acres of public land in the San Luis Valley where the bureau has been soliciting interest for utility-scale solar energy development based on a 2012 plan that includes six western states.
The BLM is in the process of updating that plan because of improved technology, new transmission and clean energy goals. The bureau may add more states, adjust exclusion criteria and identify new or expanded areas for solar deployment.
In February, the bureau was scheduled to hold a meeting in Grand Junction as part of a series of regional meetings to discuss expanding the area to include five additional western states.
As of December, the bureau was processing 65 utility-scale onshore clean energy projects proposed on public lands across the West, including solar, wind and geothermal projects. It had also begun to review more than 100 applications for solar and wind development and nearly 50 applications for wind and solar energy testing.