One of the largest manufacturers of solar panels and solar cells in the country is looking at possibly building a solar project in Ector County — a potential $50 million investment.

The project, called Oberon Solar, would consist of a 50 megawatt solar power plant on unused land in western Ector County. Each megawatt would require around $1 million in capital investment. The company behind the project, 174 Power Global, is seeking tax abatements from various county entities.

Officials met with both the Ector County Commissioners’ Court and the Ector County Independent School District school board recently to discuss the project. The tax abatement they’re seeking means a break in their property taxes. Odessa Chamber of Commerce Director of Economic Development Wesley Burnett, who spoke to commissioners on behalf of 174 Power Global, said a typical tax abatement for a project like this would be an 80 percent tax break for 10 years.

Burnett pointed out to commissioners that, as the property is now, it’s only generating around $1,500 a year due to an agricultural exemption. Ector County could see much more money generated from that property in the future should the company choose to invest here.

“They would be generating a lot of investment in the county, which goes to the tax base,” Burnett said. “Once the abatements are timed out or even, the percentage the entities are going to collect on the agreements are exponentially more than they’re getting now.”

Outside of just investment in the county, Burnett said the city would also benefit from an increase in construction jobs and a diversification of power.

Ector County isn’t the only area in Texas where 174 is looking to develop solar projects. They’ve already broken ground on a project in Pecos County, a 236 megawatt project which they say will be the largest installed photovoltaic project in Texas, with the capability to power around 50,000 homes annually.

The project in Pecos County is expected to be completed in late 2018, and officials said they’re looking all over Texas for potential new solar projects.

“Very simply, there’s a lot of sun,” 174 Power Global Director of Project Development Jason Garewal said about the company’s interest in Texas. “There’s good transmission infrastructure and there’s a demand for renewable energy in Texas in general.”

Burnett also pointed out to commissioners that there are several solar projects in the area, and to expect a lot more attention in the area from solar companies for similar projects.

One local solar company, Heartland Solar, is working on their own solar panel device that will be a power source for the city’s downtown hotel and conference center once it opens in spring of 2019.

Bob Zarbos, co-owner of Heartland Solar, said there is a great deal of potential for solar energy in the region. One caveat, he said, would be if the oil boom collapses, there could be less interest in consumer spending on solar energy.

His company is currently selling smaller commercial and residential solar projects in the areas, and is currently expanding, talking with Midland Memorial Hospital and the Permian Basin Area Foundation.

“The more people that are educated, the more infrastructure is educated,” Zarbos said.

 

 By Paul Wedding pwedding@oaoa.com