San Angelo’s 143-Acre Solar Power Farm Coming in 2016
When it comes to renewable solar energy, West Texas, or Texas in general, has preferable project-worthy resources, including lots of land, low costs, energy company choice and great rays of natural light from the big Texas skies. Because of these valuable resources, OneEnergy Renewables, a Seattle and Portland based utility energy development company, wants to make Texas a big part of its future plans.
San Angelo plays a part in that future, too.
“Texas has lower power prices than most places in the country, but also better sun,” said Shane Sobotka, project development manager with OneEnergy, at the Tom Green County commissioner’s court meeting Tuesday morning.
At the meeting, Sobotka, along with contractors Evan Horn and Courtney Laas from Ryan LLC, and Roland Peña, director of economic development in San Angelo, provided the Commissioners with an update on the Mesquite Solar Project, a renewable solar power plant that will be built on 143 acres of land leased by the company in August 2014. The land is close to the new business park in the northeast quadrant of the county, on the southeast side of U.S. 67 near the San Angelo Fire Training Station and the San Angelo Animal Shelter.
“It makes sense to build near the new business park because it’s a natural fit,” Sobotka said.
The Mesquite Solar Project consists of a plant layout that will cover about seven acres per megawatt DC, or a million watts of direct current. The system size itself is 10 MW (DC), and the output of the solar farm will be 19,700 megawatts per hour per year.
Once the company has finalized its “due diligence,” which includes answering questions from stakeholders, working with AEP to study feasibility and connection, handling local permits, surveying the land and finalizing negotiations on the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), the company can work on financing the project and give notice to AEP to start building the interconnection.
“As of now that’s our layout,” Sobotka said. “Once it’s operating, it’s fairly low-maintenance. It will just sit there and operate with no sound outside of the fence. It also sits fairly low to the ground”
Sobotka said he hopes construction of the plant will be underway by the second or third quarter of 2016, preferably the second. However, based on how easy things have gone so far, and by working closely with the City of San Angelo planning department, attorneys, real estate planning and the City's economic development department, he doesn’t see that being a problem.
“There’s something about San Angelo that seems easier to deal with than most places,” Sobotka said about the process thus far. “Everyone has been a big help.”
As for funding, Sobotka and Horn told the commissioners they hope to negotiate local tax incentives provided by Tom Green County and the City of San Angelo.
Roland Peña said the potential for tax incentives is feasible and would be a good idea.
“It is the first solar project for this area and for this county,” he said. “We hope to see more in the event that this one comes to fruition.”
The economic development center has completed an economic review analysis of the project to prove its viability, and Peña said he plans to provide this information with the court at the proper time.
Sobotka also told the commissioners that OneEnergy, at this time, has some customers pending credit approval, but it has not contracted out all the power; therefore, if any energy companies locally want to be a part of the project, he’s happy to discuss the details with them.
“Right now we’re looking at engaging local contractors. The vast majority of local contractors and management will be our existing partners, and they will oversee the project, but anyone can help us with any portion of this really,” Sobotka added.
As for buyers of this renewable energy, OneEnergy contracts with utilities, corporations, governmental entities and universities because of contract longevity. The company offers contract terms from 10 years to 25 years or more.
“Anybody who has the demand for the energy, plus the credit worthiness, is potentially a customer,” Sobotka stated. “In Texas, [these entities] do have to be on the deregulated part of the grid, unless we happen to have our project within their co-op utility territory.”
Most of Texas, however, is on a deregulated grid, he said. As for the benefits, the company will provide a fixed price for the life of the contract.
Sobotka said, “Most customers of the type we’re looking at typically contract on the order of a yearly basis out to three, four, or five years. We’re allowing them to contract for up to 25 years for a fixed price. This gives them certainty. It’s a hedge against volatility and energy prices."
In addition, the benefits of solar renewable energy to the city include low carbon emissions and no fuel costs because of the sun, and again, once the project is installed, it’s very low maintenance.
“It’s a low-risk energy source as opposed to some others, which have other environmental impacts as well as cost risks,” Sobotka said. “The biggest impact is the energy certainty, and for the customers, it’s the cost.”
For more information about OneEnergy Renewables, click here.