The nation’s first federally run auction for a chance to develop solar power projects on public lands was a bust – no one showed up for the bidding, and one expert speculated the government shutdown could have been to blame
“We did not have any bidders come to the sale and we did not receive any sealed bids on the sale,” BLM spokeswoman Vanessa Lacavo told the Denver Business Journal Thursday.
She insisted the cold shoulder at the Lakeland, Colo., auction doesn’t spell the end of solar development on the land, however.
The auction offered private companies the first chance to bid on the opportunity to file development plans for solar power plants in Colorado’s “Solar Energy Zones” in Conejos and Saguache counties in San Luis Valley.
The parcels total 3,705 acres. If fully developed, the land could produce 400 megawatts of power, enough to support the needs of an estimated 125,000 homes, the business journal said.
“The BLM had received interest in developing the sites, that’s why we moved forward,” Lacavo said. “It’s hard to say why we didn’t have any bidders."
The agency said it scheduled the auction because, after trying to gauge interest from the private sector in March, it got nine applications and 27 inquiries and expressions of interest, the business journal reported.
"We will evaluate today's auction as we look at future opportunities to offer lands in Solar Energy Zones for development, both in Colorado and other Western states," the BLM said.
Alex Daue, the renewable energy associate in the Denver office of the Wilderness Society, told the business journal the 16-day government shutdown could have created enough uncertainty among companies that they didn’t submit bids for the parcels.
The shutdown began Oct. 1.
“Just getting to the point of hanging an auction is an important success,” Daue told the business journal. “Find the proper places for projects and guiding them there is how we will meet the president’s clean energy goals.”
The BLM says the agency has approved 47 solar, wind and geothermal projects on public land since 2009; when projects are complete, they will provide more than 13,300 megawatts – enough energy to power 4.6 million homes.
President Obama in January emphasized the importance of sustainable energy sources like solar and wind power – and the difficulties.
“The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult,” Obama said. “But America cannot resist this transition. We must lead it.”
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