While the oil and gas industry is having a difficult year facing the coronavirus pandemic and the threat of decarbonization, solar is headed for a growth year, and it’s being driven by utility-scale projects.
The Holstein solar project on a 10,000-acre West Central Texas cattle ranch is emblematic of this epochal shift. Rancher Garland Richards used to rely on Exxon oil wells drilled on his ranch. Now Richards leases a vast tract of his property to a solar farm.
Here’s our rapidly evolving list of Texas solar projects with greater than 100 MW of capacity. Recurrent began construction on the 144 MW Pflugerville Solar Project in Travis County, Texas, just last month. The electricity generated by the plant will all go to Austin Energy, with Austin Energy and Recurrent signing a power purchase agreement for the Pflugerville Project back in 2018. Austin Energy is looking to go coal-free by 2022.
Property tax abatements help drive big-solar growth in Texas – allowing project developers to pay less in taxes in return for municipal improvements. These abatements can be the difference between a project making financial sense or not – but abatements can be legislated out, just as they were legislated in.
In any case, a 2019 report from ERCOT outlined 43.5 GW of solar project applications in its interconnection queue, of which 5.1 GW had interconnection agreements. It plans to complete construction by the end of 2020. For now, if you’re a utility-scale solar developer, you’re working in Texas.
Indiana state officials have approved a proposal by Capital Dynamics and Tenaska to build the 150 MW Ratts 1 solar project near Petersburg. Construction on Ratts is set to begin next summer, with an expected commercial operation date in 2023. The project proposal includes a decommissioning plan that looks to return the land to its pre-construction use, once its 35-year lifespan is over.