Modern Day Gold Rush: Arizona Real Estate for Solar

It could be the next great opportunity in real estate, or the modern day version of swamp land in Florida.

Vermaland, a land holding company in Phoenix, will hold an auctionon June 6 to sell off 1,938 acres that it says could accommodate 388megawatts of electricity, according to the company. That would beenough to power 100,000 homes, says Vermaland.

Arizona has been trying to promote solar in its borders with creditsand incentives for manufacturers and consumers. Arizona Public Servicehas a mandate to provide 4.5 percent of its power from renewablesources by 2014. The state offers a $3 per watt credit, nearly twice ashigh as California’s. Baseline power in the state, however, iscomparatively cheap so some of the advantage is eroded. Nonetheless,some power providers want to produce power in Arizona to sell toCalifornia.

One of the state’s chief assets, of course, is the sun and empty land. Sempra Generation,an independent power provider, has said it will build more than 300megawatts of PV parks on 4,000 acres it owns near Phoenix. (Land waspart of the motivation behind First Solar’s purchase of Optisolar.First Solar is discarding Optisolar’s technology but keeping the dealsand land rights.)

Although Vermaland is promoting its acres as real estate for PVpanels, solar thermal is one of the hot topics in the state. The statesports around 13,000 square miles of relatively level (less than 1percent slope), dry, sunny, empty, environmentally OK land that couldaccommodate thermal plants, according to Fred Morse of Fred Morse &Associates, one of the world’s experts on the subject. If built out,those square miles could generate 1,742 gigawatts of power.

Lockheed Martin earlier this month announced plans to build at 290 megawatt solar thermal plant outside of Phoenix.

Enterprising solar developers in search of a golden opportunitycould find it at Arizona’s first large-scale solar land auction at 1:00p.m., June 6 at the Sheraton Crescent Hotel, 2620 W. Dunlap Ave.,Phoenix.

The land being sold by is located in high solar resource areas asdetermined by the National Renewable Energy Lab and has a consistentslope of less than 1 percent, according to the company.

So the downside? Solar subsidies remain controversial and couldultimately be reversed or reduced in the future by more conservative,market-driven officials. (California’s solar thermal business waskilled in the early 1990s when the state refused to renew a propertytax exemption.) Transmission lines would have to be built. Independentpower producers could also find themselves made redundant if utilitiesdecide to build power plants themselves. 



/** * event tracking script from */