A land rush in the desert, or plenty of room for everyone?

June 14, 2008

solar1.jpgThe U.S. housing market may be in a serious slump, but competition for big chunks of land in the hot, dry Southwest is heating up.

Developers of solar and wind power projects are scrambling to get their hands on swathes of land in the U.S. West that not only have lots of sun or wind, but are also close enough to critical transmission lines.

“There is a lot of activity staking out that land,” said Dan Kabel, chief executive of Acciona Solar Power, the unit of Spanish building-to-energy firm Acciona that is building solar thermal power plants in the United States. “People keep talking to me about a land rush. They say there is a land rush. The evidence I’ve seen personally is the patchwork effect of all the applications for solar and wind. There is very active prospecting for solar land.”

The U.S. West is in such high demand because not only are the sun and wind resources enormous, they are also located near areas of burgeoning power demand, such as Southern California, Kabel said in an interview at Acciona’s Nevada Solar One solar thermal power plant in Boulder City, Nevada.

But even with all that competition, Kabel said, there is plenty of room for Acciona to grow. So far, it operates one solar thermal power plant in the United States, though more are in the works (he wouldn’t say how many.)

“There is a lot of desert out there,” Kabel said.

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