BrightSource Energy has signed a land lease agreement with a real estate developer in Nevada to build a solar power plant with a capacity to generate up to 600 megawatts, another big power deal for the solar thermal specialist.

The Oakland, Calif.-based BrightSource inked the deal with Coyote Springs Land Co., which is building a 43,000-acre planned community about 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas. The developer already has built a PGA golf course, and it plans to add a hotel and casino. Home construction is scheduled to begin next year, reported the Las Vegas Review Journal last December.

The power from BrightSource's project could serve not only Coyote Springs, but also other BrightSource customers such as the Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas and Electric, said Keely Wachs, a spokesman for BrightSource. The solar power developer just recently announced a 1.3-gigawatt agreement with Southern California Edison, which followed another deal with Pacific Gas and Electric for 500 megawatts with an option to expand to 900 megawatts.

BrightSource already has plans to build power plants in the Mojave Desert in California to fulfill parts of its contracts with Southern California Edison and PG&E. But it needs to find other land to complete the rest of the projects. BrightSource would develop and operate the power plants and sell the electricity to its customers via long-term contracts.

The company plans to start building the 600-megawatt power plant in Nevada next year, and could decide some time this year which of its customers will benefit from the project, said Wachs, who declined to reveal how much the project would cost.

BrightSource specializes in building solar-thermal power plants. Each plant uses a field of heliostats, or mirrors, to direct the sunlight to a boiler at the top of a tower. The sun's heat turns the water in the boiler into steam, which is then piped to a turbine to produce electricity.

BrightSource's land agreement with Coyote Springs sets terms that must be met before the company would start building on the site, said Wachs, who declined to disclose the terms. He noted that, in general, BrightSource would want to make sure it has lined up all the necessary permits before the construction. The project would take place within a 6 square-mile area.

Coyote Springs already has received environmental permits for its entire property from the federal Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal, state and local agencies, making the site an attractive location for BrightSource. BrightSource will still have to make sure it gets any other necessary permits, Wachs said. 

Many solar-thermal power companies have been locking up properties in the sunny Southwest for their projects. Like BrightSource, they are looking to build on both private and public properties. Because the federal government owns a large swath of land that could be suitable for solar power projects, the BLM has received more than 200 applications from developers, up from 125 nearly a year ago (see The Rush for Gigawatts in the Desert Explodes).