The Arizona State Land Department (ASLD) manages the Arizona State Land Trust with which there are many opportunities with great potential to site solar energy projects.

The State land for solar energy projects is acquired by entering into ASLD’s long term commercial lease, offered and bid upon at public auction.  ASLD recommends a pre-application meeting to discuss the following:

 

  1. Location of the parcel & point of interconnection
  2. ASLD’s explanation regarding areas acceptable for siting the project which include
    • A. Characteristics of the land
      1. a. Vegetation
      2. b. View shed
      3. c. Watershed
      4. d. Accessibility
      5. e. Known restrictions
    • B. Existing use & improvements
      1. a. Avoidance of Agriculture
      2. b. Avoidance of land with high existing improvement value
      3. c. Existing Lessee’s livelihood
    • C. Opposition
      1. a. Is there likely significant substantiation
    • D. Income potential
  3. Timeline, due diligence requirements and zoning requirements

 

The process begins when an application is filed for long term commercial lease within an area acceptable to ASLD.

ASLD has a strong commitment to facilitate utility scale solar energy projects and when an application is received, employs a review process to determine the compatibility of a project with ASLD objectives considering the attributes of the proposed location.  The review process starts with an evaluation of the proposed location from a physical perspective.  Is transmission interconnection reasonable, can existing transmission corridors and infrastructure be utilized.  Is access to the property sufficient to accommodate construction.  Is the direct solar insolation favorable.  Is residential development expected in the area.  Can the property meet the jurisdictions’ requirements for planning and zoning.  How do land values match with those values necessary for solar development.  Does ASLD have existing plans for the property.

ASLD also seeks co-existence with Range Lessees.  This involves identification of Range resources and grazing use in proximity to the proposed project.  ASLD coordinates with affected grazing lessees to address possible alternatives to minimize impacts to ranch improvements, water supply and cattle grazing, movement patterns.

To minimize environmental impacts, ASLD investigates the potential for soil erosion and the ability to retain sediment-laden waters within the project site.  Washes are evaluated to insure preservation of their hydrologic function.  The solar project must allow that the original grade and drainage pattern can be re-established upon decommissioning. 

Migratory corridors exist in many areas of the State and efforts will be made to avoid conflict within the major corridors for wildlife.

The geology is of importance as it will have a significant affect on land restoration and revegetation upon decommissioning, as is stipulated in the commercial lease.  ASLD’s goal is also to avoid potential natural resource conflicts.

View shed and scenic quality are a consideration if a project appears it will be intrusive on a well known and enjoyed vista or lush area of desert and mountains.  Some areas enjoy extensive public access for outdoor recreation so a consideration will include the project’s influence on those activities.

ASLD will look at the Influence a project may have on existing privately owned properties such as current and future access to the properties, the appearance of the project from the properties and the mitigation that could be accomplished so the two may co-exist.

Because there are many variations on the purpose and location requirements for development of a solar project it is difficult to specify an area or corridor most suitable for solar energy projects.  They could be utility scale, for private industry or small projects designed to assist a particular load center. 

Following is a brief description of the process followed by ASLD to complete the lease.

A.      The ALTA Survey will determine the legal description of final site

  1. 1.       Evaluate the site per the pre application standard
  2. 2.       Prepare a presentation for the Application Standard Assessment Process (ASAP)
    • A. If unacceptable characteristics are discovered during ASAP, Leasing Administrator will prepare rejection letter
    • B. If accepted at ASAP
      • a.       Prepare a letter to inform the existing Lessee there is a submitted application
      • b.       The letter is written and delivered by Lessee’s Agriculture Administrator or Range Manager
    • C.      The Administrator or Manager will contact Lessee for discussion
    • D.      The Administrator or Manager will identify the existing improvements and submit the list to existing Lessee

       

      • a.       The existing list of Improvements will be agreed upon between ASLD and Lessee
  3. 4.       A Letter will be sent to the Solar Applicant from the Leasing Administrator requesting due diligence bids for an ALTA Survey, a Phase I Site Assessment and a Class III Cultural Resource Survey
  4. 5.       Once the bids are submitted, the Leasing Administrator will Issue a 37-205B letter granting access to the land for the Applicant to perform their due diligence and committing to conditional reimbursement of due diligence expenses.  The letter will also specify a timeline and expected performance
  5. 6.       The Leasing Administrator will send a lease to the Solar Applicant to begin negotiations
  6. 7.       When the due diligence work is submitted to ASLD it will be distributed to the appropriate Section for evaluation
  7. 8.       The Planning Section will determine if ASLD will allow the Solar Applicant to submit to the Jurisdiction for zoning
    • A.      ASLD will collect pertinent information from Solar Applicant
    • B.      ASLD will prepare an authorization to allow Solar Applicant to engage with Jurisdiction on behalf of the State Land Department
    • C.      Authorization will designate expected actions by Applicant
  8. 9.       The property will be appraised
  9. 10.   ASLD and Solar Applicant will complete lease negotiations
  10. 11.   Leasing Administrator will prepare and make the presentation to the Board of Appeals for approval
  11. 12.   Leasing Administrator will provide information to the auctioneer to complete the Auction Notice
  12. 13.   Auctioneer will schedule an auction date and place the advertising
  13. 14.    Conduct the auction