District Approves Solar Applications

Posted on March 3, 2019

The Ector County Independent School District Board of Trustees approved two applications for appraised value limitations on property south of Interstate 20 and east of Farm to Market Road 1601 for two solar projects.

The board also approved hiring Dan Casey of Moak Casey & Associates to guide the district through the application process, Chief Financial Officer David Harwell said.

The project was proposed by Origis Energy USA in Miami, Fla. They are being called Rockhound A and Rockhound B.

Rockhound A will produce 245 megawatts AC and Rockhound B, 224 megawatts AC, Director of Business Development for Origis David Pressman said.

Harwell said the cost of the consultant will be paid by Origis. It is $75,000 for Rockhound A and $50,000 for Rockhound B.

A similar application from Oberon Solar LLC was approved late last year.

Pressman said it was a combination of a few factors that made the location appealing, the first being that the “West Texas sun is very strong.”

Second, Pressman said, the project sits amidst a series of transmission lines that “allow us to very easily plug the project into the grid and move it wherever we please. We do not expect any congestion or curtailment as a result of limited transmission capacity. These are very new, robust lines.”

The strong oil and gas activity in the area also creates strong demand for power, Pressman added.

The power produced will be consumed in West Texas and farmed out elsewhere across the grid, Pressman said.

Odessa Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Director Wesley Burnett said the solar projects are great for the school district.

He added that the projects are good job creators during construction, but don’t have a lot of permanent jobs.

“… But that’s good for us right now as far as our housing and everything else we’re challenged with as far as finding the people, so these projects are a great fit for us right and they really benefit the taxing entities because there’s nothing on this property right now, except ag exemption, which is almost no income,” Burnett said.

After the first solar project, Burnett said the thought was that more companies would be interested. He added that there is another firm officials are talking to. The firm may not ask for a value limitation with the school district, “but it would still be interested in the other entities.”

The board also approved hiring a second executive director of secondary education, Dalia Benavides. Benavides said she is a graduate of Odessa High School and worked for ECISD 25 years ago.

She said she was in education for 30 years before she retired.

Deputy Superintendent Stephanie Howard said Benavides has served as an elementary principal, junior high principal and superintendent with great success. She has been serving as a consultant for ECISD for the middle schools. Several middle schools are on improvement required status under state accountability standards.

“I think I let my family talk me into retiring and I thought I was ready,” Benavides said.

But at home, she started getting antsy.

“They called me from Ector County to do some consulting work with their secondary schools. … After I sort of got back into it, I thought I wasn’t ready to retire. I still have some left in me, so that’s when I saw that they had this posting and I decided to apply for it,” Benavides said.

Howard said Benavides has been able to take schools that many principals haven’t been successful with and turned them around. She added that Benavides really cares about students, has high expectations and digs into the data to figure out what’s going on.