BLM releases strategy for solar energy development on Colorado public lands

As part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to cut carbon pollution and spur renewable energy development on public lands, the Bureau of Land Management today announced the release of the final Solar Regional Mitigation Strategy for three Solar Energy Zones in Colorado.

The SRMS applies a landscape-level approach to managing solar development and mitigation on public lands in Colorado’s San Luis Valley and New Mexico’s Taos Plateau. It identifies natural, cultural and human resources that could be impacted by potential solar development, introduces measures to compensate for any unavoidable impacts, and identifies priority sites for mitigation. 

The strategy also recommends a per-acre fee for solar development that would fund off-site compensatory mitigation measures. The standardized fee would provide solar developers with more certainty regarding the cost of potential solar development, and would ensure that any residual impacts of solar projects in the SEZs are addressed through mitigation.

The BLM first established SEZs in its Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for solar energy development, finalized in 2012. The plan provided a blueprint for utility-scale solar energy permitting in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah by establishing SEZs with access to existing or planned transmission, incentives for development within those zones, and a process through which to consider additional zones and solar projects.

The SRMS is not a National Environmental Policy Act document or decision, but rather a strategy document meant to inform project-level development and permitting.

In addition to the SRMS, Colorado is announcing the availability of the final version of these supporting studies:

  • San Luis Valley – Taos Plateau Landscape-Level Cultural Heritage Values and Risk Assessment.
  • San Luis Valley – Taos Plateau Level IV Ecoregion Landscape Assessment.
  • Visual Resource Analysis for Solar Energy Zones in the San Luis Valley. 
  • Modeling of Dust Levels Associated With Potential Utility-Scale Solar Development in the San Luis Valley-Taos Plateau Study Area.

The SRMS and supporting documents can be found on the project website. Please contact Nancy Keohane, Project Lead, at 719-269-8531 or nkeohane@blm.gov for more information.

This year, we invite everyone to reimagine your public lands as we celebrate 75 years of the BLM’s stewardship and service to the American people. The BLM manages approximately 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The agency’s mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. 

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