Another Piece of the Puzzle
July 16, 2009
By: Daniel Maysick
A land rush is underway in the American Southwest as companies and investors buy up large tracts of land in anticipation for building solar energy plants. This rush has been pushed forward recently by the Bureau of Land Management's opening of public lands for possible solar development.
The New York Times Green Blog reported Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced measures on June 29 to hasten the development of solar energy on Western public lands. "Twenty-four tracts of land in six states - Nevada, Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah - are under review. Maps of the land will be published shortly in the Federal Register."
It is hard to believe that any person or any company would want to buy real estate with the recent housing market collapse, but the desert land once bought in hopes of building communities is now being bought for investments in renewable solar energy. This may be just another example of how the development of a renewable energy market will soften the recession and begin its turnaround.
Recent land purchases have been for private land and often involved land that was used for agricultural purposes making it easier to build on. Land managed by the BLM is often in pristine condition and contracts to rent this land are expensive. Furthermore, this land undergoes a long examination to see if it is fit for development and won't disturb a natural ecosystem adding additional time before it can be developed.
This land is in the solar hot spot for the US. States here have some of most ambitious legislation requiring large percentages of their future energy needs to be produced by solar energy. Also these states have among the best incentives for building solar. Check out the Database for State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.
The Arizona Republic reports that the
"land rush is being driven by rules in Arizona, California and other states that require utilities to generate more power from renewable resources: 15 percent in Arizona by 2025 and 33 percent in California by 2020. Generous state and federal subsidies, plus billions in economic-stimulus money earmarked for solar power, create an additional incentive to tie up land.
"Arizona, which according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has some of the richest solar land in the country, has become the focal point of the land rush. Much of the prime land for solar use is along the Interstate 10 corridor between Buckeye and the California state line. Other hot spots can be found around Kingman and west of Wickenburg.
"Potential buyers include utilities, investment banks, foreign solar firms and of course those who want to turn a quick buck. The land rush for solar real estate is relatively new having only been occurring the past few years. Land that sold for a few hundred dollars an acre a decade ago is now being sold for as much as $10,000 an acre. Many speculators are beginning to worry that the land is over priced and people are buying the land in hopes of flipping it to make a profit."
This is just another aspect to solar energy emerging as a strong market for the future. Someone will have to make the solar panels that utilities hope to build on this solar rich desert land.
CNNMoney.com's Greenwombat blog reported earlier this year about a large new solar plant beginning operations in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
"German solar company Schott on Monday cut the ribbon on a $100 million factory in Albuquerque, N.M., that will produce solar panels as well as receivers for solar trough power plants. Meanwhile, Chinese solar giant Suntech said Monday that it will build a solar cell manufacturing plant in the United States.
"The receivers the factory makes are long glass-covered steel tubes that sit above parabolic troughs in large solar farms. The troughs concentrate sunlight on the receivers to heat a synthetic oil inside that is used to create steam that drives an electricity-generating turbine. There are numerous solar trough power plants being planned for the Southwest, including Abengoa Solar's Solana project in Arizona and utility FPL's (FPL) Beacon 250-megawatt solar in California."
The future looks bright for solar energy. We can look forward to the day when large quantities or solar energy will be produced and spread across the country providing consumers cheap and environment friendly energy.