Renewable Energy

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Renewable energy is a major development sector for Colorado. The State Land Board is eager to lease trust land to developers for renewable energy projects. We offer ground leases for:

  • Solar
  • Wind
  • Hydropower
  • Geothermal
  • Biomass/bioenergy
  • Other innovative ideas you have!

We're proud to be partnering with Xcel to meet the PUC mandate of 30% by 2020 and the CO Energy Plan for Xcel's attaining 56% renewable in CO by 2026. One megawatt (MW) of energy provides power for approximately 525 homes. As of January 2022, solar and wind energy projects located on state trust land generate 300+ MWs of energy, which represents ~five percent of the total renewable energy produced in Colorado. 

  • Wind energy leases on trust land are currently generating 296MW, which is enough energy to power 155,000 homes. We anticipate that another 1.5MW from wind energy will be in production by the end of 2022.
  • Solar energy leases on trust are currently generating 18.4MW, which is enough energy to power 9,600 homes. We anticipate that another 9MW from solar energy will be in production by the end of 2022. Also, a large-scale Nextera solar facility should be completed in 2023 on trust land. It will produce 200MW, which will be able to power another 105,000 homes.

View the acreage adjustment process that occurs when the Land Board receives a renewable energy proposal on trust land already leased for agriculture. 

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How can we help you?

Contact Christopher Smith at 303-866-3454 x3327 (christopher.smith@state.co.us) for questions about the renewable energy program. 

Contact David Rodenberg at 303-866-3454 x3328 (david.rodenberg@state.co.us) for questions about leasing. 

Watch our 5-minute video about renewable energy production:

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25+ years of renewable energy on trust land

Did you know that Colorado's first wind turbine from the 1990s was a trust land? Watch a short slideshow about the history of renewable energy on trust land:

 

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Q&A: overview

Yes! The State Land Board is very interested in partnering with renewable energy developers and utilities to site projects on school trust assets. We are actively working to identify appropriate locations and reaching out to developers who may benefit from these locations.

The State Land Board's GIS Map Server can be used to identify all state trust lands. You can also view a specific renewable energy map. You can click interactive mapping layers to view existing leases, encumbrances, and even solar and wind resource potential. Contact Chris Smith at 303-866-3454 x3327 to further discuss the viability of individual parcels.

View the acreage adjustment process that occurs when the Land Board receives a renewable energy proposal on trust land already leased for agriculture. 

Yes. View our Renewable Energy Leasing policy adopted by the Board. Please note, other Board policies may be applicable as well.

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Q&A: getting started (prospective lessees)

Renewable energy leases are typically granted in a two stage process: a one to two year planning lease; and a long-term production lease. Each lease type requires a Renewable Energy Application along with an application fee.

View the acreage adjustment process that occurs when the Land Board receives a renewable energy proposal on trust land already leased for agriculture. 

A planning lease is intended for the due diligence phase of a project. The planning lease allows a lessee to pursue due diligence to see if the site will ultimately meet the needs of their project. This includes local land use approvals and negotiations with the off-taking utility. Planning leases also allow a developer an exclusive right to negotiate a production lease on the property. Planning lease terms are typically one to two years in length. Planning leases do not allow for surface disturbance on the property and do not require Board approval. 

A production lease covers the construction and long-term operation of a renewable energy project. The production lease requires Board approval and is tied to, among other things, local land use approval for the project. Typical exhibits to a production lease include local land use approval, proof of an off-taker for the power being generated, and Best Management Practices to protect natural resources and wildlife.

In addition to the $500 application fee, annual rent structures are based on the type of renewable energy project. Community-scale projects (typically solar gardens of less than 2 MW in size) are based on the size of the project and the financial structure of the developer’s agreement with the off-taking utility, sometimes called a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) or "Solar*Rewards" Award. The rental structure is determined to include a base rental rate with annual escalators. For utility-scale projects (typically wind or large solar project who sell directly to utilities rather than individual subscribers), the rent structure is somewhat different and will include a per acre ground rent plus a minimum annual payment (Minimum Production Payment) with a royalty structure based on the PPA and annual revenue the developer generates from the sale of electricity. See the State Land Board’s Fees & Payment Considerations schedule for details.

The length of a production lease term is typically tied to the term of the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), which is usually 20-40 years.

Prior to submitting an application, a discussion with the Renewable Energy Program Manager is required. Please provide a list of the parcels (township range section) that identifies the state trust parcels that you are interested in as well as the private land that is proposed to be in the project. Also, provide the estimated total acres of private land, the total estimated acres of state trust land, total estimated megawatts on private land, and the total estimated megawatts on state trust land of the proposed project. The Renewable Energy Program Manager will perform a high level review. Barring any issues or concerns, an internal Line of Business Review will occur. This will take up to 3 weeks. Barring any specific concerns or issues and with direction from the Renewable Energy Program Manager, the applicant will need to submit an application for a Planning Lease. Once the Planning Lease Application is received and processed (4-5 days), the Renewable Energy Program Manager will solicit feedback from the agricultural lessee. This takes up to 3 weeks. Barring any issues or concerns, Staff will provide a Planning Lease to be signed and executed. Planning Leases are approved at the staff level and do not require approval from the Board.

An exploration permit provides a lessee permission to conduct testing that will necessarily disturb the surface (e.g., soils and water testing).  Exploration permits require detailed information on the nature of the testing and location of the surface disturbance. A bond is also required to ensure remediation of the surface upon completion of the disturbance. The bond will be released upon completion of the work, remediation of the property and inspection by State Land Board staff. Contractors conducting such testing will be required to provide proof of insurance with the State Land Board named as an additional insured.

Yes. We have our own standard lease form.

The requirement for a bond will be specified in the lease, permit, or contract.  The amount of the bond will also be specified in the lease, permit, or contract.  See the State Land Board’s Bonding FAQs for more information.

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Q&A: current renewable energy lessees

Yes, we will mail it about two weeks prior to the lease anniversary date.  There is a 30-day grace period in which to pay.

No, we do not invoice for the true-up.  Because we will not have sales and production numbers, we expect that you will automatically make payment based on annual look-back.  You will receive a penalty invoice, however, if no true-up is received.

No, not without express written approval. A planning lease allows a lessee to tie up the property and conduct basic due diligence and apply for local approvals. It does not grant a right to access the property or conduct studies that will require surface disturbance (surveys, soils studies, wind studies, etc). In order to access the property a planning lessee must obtain a Temporary Access Permit, stating the specific date and purpose of access. These permits are administered by staff and can be completed within 24 business hours. Access to state trust lands requires proof of insurance by the person or company accessing the property, with the State Land Board named as an additional insured. Studies that will disturb the surface (soils or water testing) will require an Exploration Rider.

Planning lease: If a planning lease lessee wishes to extend the lease, they must submit an application for renewal at least three months prior to the expiration date of the lease. Renewal applications are processed in the same manner as initial applications. 

If the lessee does not wish to renew the lease, or they do not notify the Board in the required time frame, the lease will expire at the end of the term.

Production lease: If a lessee who holds a production lease wishes to extend the lease, they must submit an application for renewal at least twelve months prior to the expiration date of the lease. Lessee must provide proof of an agreement for an on-going revenue stream (PPA or other agreements for a buyer of the electricity being generated) and propose a new lease term. Renewal applications are processed in the same manner as the initial applications and all Production Lease extensions, unless renewal terms are specified in the original lease, it must be approved by the Board.

If the lessee does not wish to renew, or fails to provide adequate notice of a desire to renew, and the lease term expires, the lessee will be required to remove all improvements and remediate the site to its original condition. 

If the lessee fails to surrender the leased premises and/or remove all improvements at the end of the lease term, all improvements remaining on the leased premises will be deemed abandoned and may, at the Board’s option, be removed by the Board at the lessee’s expense, retained by the Board, or sold by the Board with all proceeds going to the Board.

Unless subject to an exemption, the renewable energy application, lease, and any information provided to the State are subject to public release through the Colorado Open Records Act, 24-72-201, C.R.S., et seq.

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Forms and Instructions