By Susan Montoya Bryan
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Pick any stretch of road slicing through the American Southwest. The sun beats down on the asphalt like nowhere else and heat waves distort the landscape.
It’s here, in these open expanses, that experts say is a massive untapped source of energy that could meet the nation’s growing needs. But only if developers can get it out of the desert.
Even as renewable power projects get a boost from the federal government, a lack of transmission lines prevent states such as New Mexico — where the sun shines more than 300 days a year — from converting the obvious potential into real watts that can charge smartphones and run air conditioners thousands of miles away.
Transmission lines are key to developing the region’s solar resources. The problem is existing lines are maxing out, especially as the push intensifies to bring online more renewable energy. Building new lines can take years or even decades of cutting through a tangle of bureaucracy.