Plans Emerge For The First West Texas Solar Electric Generating Facility


Solar energy is being utilized across the United States and throughout the world, from residential to commercial use. Renewable energy is no longer a tall tale of the future. San Angelo could soon join in and become a pioneer in renewable energy via the power of the west Texas sun in an endeavor called the Mesquite Solar Project.

Since August of last year, the city council has been in negotiations with a renewable resource company called OneEnergy Renewables (OE Renewables) to lease city-owned land.

 Initially, the city agreed to lease the company 80 acres of land situated east of north US 67, just north of the city’s Business and Industrial Park area. In May the council approved yet another 63 acres be leased to the company, leasing out 143 acres total. That lease agreement indicates the land will be used for the construction of a commercial-sized solar electric generating facility.

Whether or not that energy will be harnessed and used locally or dispersed elsewhere was not really clear, as Jen Bradford, Director of Project Development, OE Renewables  seemed uncertain herself at this point iof a 36-month plan to create the first solar energy project in west Texas. The planned date for completion of the plant itself is mid-2016.

“We are looking for an ultimate entity who would be interested in purchasing the energy,” she said after making her presentation to city council Tuesday afternoon. “So, we are looking through those options, we have several options now.”

OE Renewables is collaborating with AEP on the connectivity issues.

“Most likely it would power the local area, the local grid, and we’re also working with AEP on the inter connection requirements,” Bradford said. “Most likely it would power the immediate area. One megawatt generally powers (it changes in different regions) but can power between 300 and 400 homes depending on the temperature and geography and energy use of that region.”

The site, once constructed, is estimated to produce about 19,700 megawatts per year. The solar field that makes up the plant would use photovoltaic panels. These panels convert solar energy into direct current electricity using semiconducting materials that exhibit the creation of electric current upon exposure to light.

Bradford also said the construction of the facility would have a positive economic impact on San Angelo.

“Certainly a project like this would bring construction jobs to the city and we hope to use as many local contractors as we can,” Bradford explained. “We are securing help from local site civil engineering firms; we hope to do that as well as working with the county and with their employees so it could bring a lot of interest to the area.”

As far as job creation after the plant is built, the plant itself will not create very much of a market for jobs, as Bradford explained.

 “It’s a pretty low impact use so it doesn’t require a lot of effort to keep it running and operating, that’s just the nature of solar energy,” she said. “It’s pretty low impact use and low maintenance use, which is a nice thing about it.”

OE Renewables is based in Seattle, Washington and according to their website, are committed to getting new large scale renewable energy projects on the grid.

“We would love to have this site operational within a year or so generating electricity, and also generating the interest and excitement about bringing solar energy to the area,” she said. “At this point we don’t see any large challenges. We want to find a good site and we think we found a good site; it’s flat and it’s accessible. The city has been great to work with and so we are looking forward to moving forward.”

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