New solar plant highlights Permian’s energy riches

Posted on October 6, 2020

Enel Green Power’s Roadrunner plant will provide power to companies such as Mondelez, Clorox

By Mella McEwen, Reporter-Telegram

Photo: Courtesy Of Enel Green Power

Located in Upton County, home to early oil boom towns Rankin and McCamey, Enel Green Power has begun operations at its Roadrunner solar plant.

Enel recently completed the second and final phase of construction, adding an additional 245 megawatts to the 252-megawatt first phase that began operation at the end of 2019. The announcement comes on the heels of the start-up of Enel’s expansion of its High Lonesome wind farm in Upton and Crockett counties, bringing its total to 500 megawatts. High Lonesome is expected to generate not only 1.9 terrawatt-hours annually but generate over $75 million in property taxes and over $90 million in lease payments to local landowners over the life of the project.

Enel also operates the 63-megawatt Snyder wind farm in Scurry County.

“The Permian Basin is rich in natural resources like oil and gas but has seen huge investment that leverage its other natural strengths like solar and wind over the years,” said Ben Shepperd, president of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association in an email to the Reporter-Telegram. “In fact, much of these large investments have been made by oil and gas companies in the region.  There is no doubt that while the Permian Basin has proven to be ‘America’s Oilfield’ it also has the opportunity to provide energy security in diverse ways and we are excited to see continued growth and development of all types of energy that benefits communities and creates jobs. With continued investment in physical and technological infrastructure like roads, electric transmission, and broadband service, the region can continue to thrive and benefit the entire state.”

Joe Parenti, Enel’s site manager at the Roadrunner plant, said that the plant is the largest solar project in the state – and the company’s largest in the U.S. — generating 1,200 gigawatt hours annually. The project is expected to generate $60 million in property tax revenue over its lifetime, he said in an email to the Reporter-Telegram. Construction created 500 jobs and the plant itself will employ nine permanent, full-time operations positions and several other logistics, maintenance planning and project support roles for the company’s continued solar growth in Texas.

Enel’s solar and wind facilities will power some major corporations.

“Mondelez (maker of Oreo cookies, among other products) and Clorox are the two corporate offtakers purchasing solar energy from Roadrunner,” said Parenti. “Some of the remaining energy will be sold on Texas’ wholesale electricity market. Enel Green Power’s larger portfolio of customers in North America include Anheuser-Busch at our Thunder Ranch wind farm, T-Mobile at our Red Dirt wind farm, Facebook at the Rattlesnake Creek wind farm, and many more.” Danone North America will purchase enough electricity from Enel’s High Lonesome wind farm to produce the equivalent of about 800 million cups of yogurt and over 80 million gallons of milk each year.

Asked if Enel would consider additional facilities if Roadrunner meets expectations, Parenti replied, “There are a number of factors driving renewables growth in Texas. The state offers excellent transmission infrastructure and a competitive market, augmented by commercial demand from customers like Mondelez and Clorox. The wind and solar resource is critical as well – which makes West Texas appealing.”

Citing the High Lonesome wind farm, he said his company now operates over 1 gigawatt of wind and solar capacity in Texas. “The state is a key growth market for us as we build around 1 GW of new capacity per year across the U.S. and Canada. We’re introducing new technologies to our portfolio here as well. Recently, we started construction on the Lily solar-plus-storage project in North Texas, which pairs a 181 MWdc solar plant with a 50 MWac battery storage system. We have many other wind and solar projects in advanced development across the state. The outlook for renewables in Texas remains strong, and we’re excited to keep growing here.”