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Advancing Colorado as a Leader in the Clean Energy Economy

Image of multiple solar panels beneath a shining sun in a grassy field.

With climate change a growing concern globally, Governor Jared Polis set the ambitious goal of reaching 100% renewable energy in Colorado by 2040. The Governor outlined a roadmap, calling the goal a moral imperative to fight climate change and curb pollution of our air and water, as well as an opportunity to drive innovation in transitioning to a clean energy economy.

One of the hurdles to achieving this goal has been identifying land suitable for clean energy generation. Easily accessible, open flat land close to existing utility infrastructure is increasingly scarce. Yet marginalized properties that are suitable for brightfield sites have typically been overlooked because of the time-consuming task of piecing together disparate sources of information.

What Are Brightfields?

Mine-scarred lands, former landfills and dump sites, and abandoned industrial and commercial sites which often have limitations for other uses. The proximity to population centers and access to existing utility infrastructure means these marginalized parcels are often well-suited for renewable energy development.

is an innovative, free, and publicly-available one-stop
web-mapping application to identify marginalized properties for potential renewable energy redevelopment.

Through the first project funded by the Colorado Lab focusing on the renewable energy sector, COLORADO BRIGHTFIELDS was created to move past this challenge. Developed by Convergence Associates LLC, Colorado State University, and Bright Rain Solutions, the tool combines over 100 separate datasets into one web-mapping application, allowing users to view nearly 4,000 parcels statewide, analyze individual parcels, and employ a variety of filters and layers to narrow down results to desired criteria.

COLORADO BRIGHTFIELDS Web-Mapping Application. View the database here.

Early users of COLORADO BRIGHTFIELDS have found it to be a valuable tool to support and increase clean energy development across the state.

“The mapping tool provides a multitude of benefits that extend beyond identifying potential renewable energy sites. The user-friendly interface allows for easy exploration and customization of content. It provides an invaluable tool to quickly identify potentially unused or underused properties based on their proximity to desirable features and these features can be used to support the entire project life-cycle.”

Doug Jamison, Superfund/Brownfields Unit Leader for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

“The COLORADO BRIGHTFIELDS mapping application is a fantastic tool! Just by adding in a couple search filters, we were able to quickly identify potential sites for an upcoming solar garden project. The tool gave us actionable results in just minutes. Instead of spending hours in initial research, we were able to focus that time saved on refining our analysis of viable sites.”

Matt McNearny, Strategic Partnership Manager, GRID Alternatives

To develop the COLORADO BRIGHTFIELDS application, the project team collaborated with key federal, state, and county agencies to gain insight into the right data to include and issues preventing access to and aggregation of these data. An advisory group representing federal and state agencies as well as utilities, developers, conservation, and community partners informed the selection of data elements to include, while counties provided the bulk of data available in the application. The initial iteration of COLORADO BRIGHTFIELDS includes data on 10 of Colorado’s 64 counties, and additional funding is being sought to expand the counties represented. A detailed report on the project can be read here.