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Colorado Governor Signs Bill to Help Localities Sit Utility-Scale Solar Projects

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Bighorn Solar in Colorado. Credit: McCarthy Building Cos.

The Colorado Renewable Energy Siting Coalition today celebrated the signing of Senate Bill 24-212 (Renewable Energy Projects for Local Governors) by Colorado Governor Jared Polis. This bill provides resources to local governments to evaluate, site, and permit utility-scale renewable energy projects, while considering community values, including impacts to lands and wildlife.

Colorado has long been a climate leader and currently ranks seventh in renewable energy production per capita. To reach its goal of 100% renewable energy by 2040, the state will need an estimated three-fold increase in wind generation and a five-fold increase in solar generation. Surveys of Colorado residents continue to reinforce broad interest in diversifying the state’s energy production.

rces with more renewable resources while protecting wildlife and other community values. Local governments, industry and state agencies must collaborate and act quickly to locate and enable renewable energy projects, avoiding, minimizing and mitigating impacts to wildlife and maximizing benefits to communities. SB24-212 takes an important step to ensure that state agencies provide local governments with the resources and expertise to responsibly develop utility-scale renewable energy projects.

SB24-212 directs Colorado Parks and Wildlife to maintain publicly available maps of habitats where utility-scale wind and solar development could negatively impact wildlife populations, and update best management practices to prevent, minimize and mitigate the impacts of projects on sensitive habitats. Additionally, local governments should consult with tribal nations on proposed projects in the Brunot Treaty area, where tribes have hunting, fishing and gathering rights.

The new law also directs the Colorado Energy Office (CEO) to develop a repository of model regulations that can serve as models for local governments to adopt policies that support both renewable energy development and wildlife resources. Additionally, the bill directs the Colorado Energy and Carbon Management Commission to provide technical support to local governments to update their land use codes and evaluate individual projects.

Between now and September 30, 2025, the CEO and the Department of Natural Resources will conduct a study to evaluate local government permitting processes to determine if counties have the infrastructure and resources available to locate and permit projects. of renewable energy at the pace and scale necessary to meet Colorado’s renewable energy goals. The study will also evaluate the impacts of renewable energy on wildlife and measures taken to mitigate those impacts, as well as the use of community benefits agreements to ensure host communities see significant benefits from the project.

“Utility-scale wind, solar and battery projects are imperative to reducing emissions from Colorado’s grid, especially as the state has committed to sourcing 80% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and achieving a fully decarbonized economy by 2050,” said Nelson Falkenburg. , clean energy siting associate at CATF. “Direct engagement with communities, along with technical assistance at the state level, is critical to overcoming common barriers to clean energy deployment. “This bill makes progress on both fronts while paving the way for future reforms.”

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