Policy: Environment & Energy

No one bids to build solar plants on Colorado public lands

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Beltway Confidential,Colorado,New Jersey,Ashe Schow,Energy and Environment,Solar Energy

Well, this is awkward. An auction in Colorado for the right to build solar energy plants produced no bids, according to the Denver Post.

"We are going to have to regroup and figure out what didn't work," Maryanne Kurtinaitis, renewable energy program manager for the federal Bureau of Land Management’s Colorado office told the Post.

But Ken Borngrebe, environmental permitting manager for First Solar, said the problem likely had to do with market uncertainties surrounding solar projects.

"It may come down to the lack of confidence in the market for solar today," Borngrebe said.

The problems for solar energy stem not only from public aversion to government funding due to the Solyndra bankruptcy, but also a lack of demand.

In New Jersey, for instance, state and federal incentives over the past decade helped the solar industry in that state boom, but after more solar infrastructure was built than needed to satisfy demand for the product, prices crashed.

The 3,700 acres up for bid in the San Luis Valley were designated solar enterprise zones by the federal Bureau of Land Management, which means development of the solar plants would be fast-tracked due to easy access to transmission lines. The zones are also in areas that are not environmentally sensitive.

So even prime land can’t get solar companies to bite. The land is still available for development, even after the embarrassment.

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