Mike Baker, flickr.
The Denver Post reported this week that two of Colorado’s largest coal burning power companies will be adding renewable energy to their electricity mix, with a planned 150-megawatt wind project and 22-megawatt solar project. These projects continue a trend in Colorado, where currently, 15 percent of electricity comes from renewable sources.
To date, all solar and wind project in Colorado are on private and state lands, but as Colorado increases its use of renewable energy, opportunities exist for wind and solar to expand onto appropriate public lands as well.
Wind and solar development on public lands across the West is growing rapidly. Just five years ago no solar projects had been built or approved on public land. Today 27 have been green lighted.
None of these projects are in Colorado, but the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has identified four ‘Solar Energy Zones’ in the San Luis Valley in the southern part of the state. These priority areas for development are pre-screened, have low environmental conflicts and high solar potential.
BLM is now working to provide additional incentives for projects in the zones, including establishing clear standards for how impacts from development are offset, or “mitigated,” so that renewable energy companies can factor this into their project costs. Providing this predictability and other incentives for development in zones will help advance renewable energy and safeguard important natural resources. This approach helped BLM conduct the first successful auction for solar development on public lands in the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone outside Las Vegas last June.
Renewable energy potential in Colorado is high and the state is already seeing benefits from development, including green jobs and clean air and water. We should encourage BLM to continue to move forward policies that will allow development on public lands in a manner consistent with the protection of wildlife and wildlands.