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PHOENIX-With global events conspiring to reduce dependence on foreign oil, many states in the U.S. are moving toward efforts in renewable energy. Colliers International’s just-released report entitled “Solar Energy Network-Partners for Change” points out that Arizona, with its 300 days of sunshine, and proximity to energy-hungry California, is proving to be an ideal location for solar-oriented businesses to set up shop.

The report, consisting of input from and collaboration between 25 public and private sector renewable energy experts, points out that Arizona is proving to be very solar-friendly for a variety of reasons. Matt Fitz-Gerald, senior associate with Colliers’ Phoenix office and team leader of the company’s Solar Energy Network, points out that Arizona has three things in its favor: a solid business infrastructure, a trained workforce and the fact that Phoenix is a central hub in the desert southwest.

Adding to the equation is the state’s mandate to its electric utilities to produce 15% of energy from renewable sources by 2025, and the fact that Arizona State University is the site of the world’s first school of sustainability. Putting all of it together, along with the commitments of businesses such as Gatorade to solar power, and Fitz-Gerald is convinced that the state is ready to break out as a leader in solar manufacturing and generation. “I think we’ll land some pretty large solar deals over the next couple of years,” Fitz-Gerald tells GlobeSt.com.

According to the report, solar projects are already underway, such as a solar energy utility farm in Harquahala Valley just west of the Phoenix metro area, the Arizona 85 landfill, which could power up to 50,000 homes upon development and Arizona Public Service’s Solar Generating Station in Gila Bend, a project that could power up to 70,000 homes.

However, it takes more than abundant sunlight and a few businesses willing to commit to solar power to make it a reality. According to a statement issued by Michael M. Crow, president of Arizona State University, the success of solar needs to come from cooperation between the public and private sectors. Furthermore, “comprehensive regional planning must dovetail with sound fiscal policies and strategic investment in infrastructure, all focused on one common objective – positioning Arizona as the epicenter of the solar industry,” he continued. Crow’s office did not respond to requests for an interview by press time.

Success in the solar endeavor also depends on the right real estate requirements. Fitz-Gerald says when it comes to manufacturing, solar industry companies look for spaces ranging in size from 30,000 square feet to 125,000 square feet. The good news, he adds, is that those spaces are available. “They were once used by semiconductor organizations,” Fitz-Gerald explains. “A lot of those organizations have shifted operations overseas to save money.”

Then there is the land for solar utility farms. Fitz-Gerald says the ideal property for this type of use is flat land close as possible to large transmission lines that can carry upwards of 150 KVs. Furthermore, those transmission lines need to be traveling toward metro areas; namely Phoenix and Tucson. The land should be outside the 100-year-flood plain. Finally, there is the cost; the solar farm developers don’t want to pay more that agricultural rates for land use.

“These are the main things that are attractive to solar farm developers,” Fitz-Gerald says. “But they’ll make it work if one of those things are missing.”

In the meantime, Fitz-Gerald’s team, which includes Colliers’ senior vice presidents Tom Knaub and John Finnegan and senior associate Kevin Lange, are starting to branch out and market the solar-friendly Arizona to prospective businesses. The group recently brought REC Solar to the state and Fitz-Gerald says has bids into other companies in the U.S. and internationally.

“The first step was publishing the report,” he notes. “That was two years in the making. Now we’re marketing; we’re marketing to solar manufacturers around the world.”

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