San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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November 4th, 2010
Company plans solar-powered electric generation plant in San Marcos

SUBMITTED REPORT

The San Marcos City Council has approved an economic development agreement with International Power, a company that will build a $74 million solar power plant generating 20 megawatts of electricity adjacent to the Hays Power Plant.

The city council on Monday approved a resolution for a Chapter 380 Economic Development Agreement, providing for no annexation into the city limits of a 137-acre site on Francis Harris Road for seven years.

The city will receive tax payments on the solar array that will be built on the Hays Power Plant’s current site located on 100 acres inside the city limits, estimated at $1.3 million in revenues over 20 years.

“This agreement will assist International Power in its investment in a solar farm that will generate wholesale electricity using the latest technology,” said Mayor Susan Narvaiz. “We are delighted to support advances that will contribute to the region’s clean power resources.”

The “solar photovoltaic” project will convert sunlight into direct current electricity that will tie to existing Lower Colorado River Authority transmission lines and produce 20 megawatts of energy for resale. The City of San Marcos electric utility purchases its wholesale power from the LCRA.

International Power, one of the world’s leading power generation companies operating in 21 countries, operates a wholesale power company in southeast San Marcos called Hays Power Plant.

The company plans to build the majority of the solar array on a 137-acre parcel in Hays County outside the city limits but contiguous to their current plant located on 100 acres inside city limits.   The company considered two other locations – Victoria & Dallas – where they own property and have plants in operation.

Under the agreement, the plant will be called the San Marcos-Hays Solar Project. The pact allows the company to request a three-year extension on the no-annexation clause should the estimated valuations of the property be less than $30 million in the seventh year.

“If the company is able to move as they predict, the San Marcos-Hays Solar Project will be in operation by 2013, making it one of the largest solar plants in the state,” said Amy Madison, President and CEO of the Greater San Marcos Economic Development Corporation.

“The project is an all-win for the company, San Marcos and Hays County.  It has no negative impact on the environment and it broadens our strong focus on green energy and sustainable development.” Mayor Narvaiz said.

A ground breaking is planned for later this year.

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10 thoughts on “Company plans solar-powered electric generation plant in San Marcos

  1. Did anyone on behalf of the City negotiate about the plant selling its electricity directly to the city, rather than to LCRA. This should have been a way to reduce the cost of energy to the rate-payers of San Marcos. The matter does not affect me personally since I am in PEC’s service area, but I think it is an opportunity missed unless there are legal reasons it could not be done.

    The construction of the plant itself is an encouraging development for those of us who believe global warming is a real problem and not a hoax.

  2. Awesome. Much better use of our money than apartments and Alamo Drafthouse.

    Does anyone know how many people will be employed there, or how 20 MW compares to our total energy usage in San Marcos?

  3. If we estimate that all of the San Marcos households consume an average of 18,169 megawatts per month; this new plant could potentially power about 94 of the 16,079 households per day with the average sunlight of 5.3 hours per day per year. This is assuming my math is correct. Maybe Darrel can check it if he reads this? 🙂

    I agree with Lamar that it would have been smarter for the city to arrange a direct buy from International Power and I am curious as to why International Power is building such a small array here. Was there perhaps a limited amount of land available to proximity?

    We also need to think smaller as well as smarter for the City of San Marcos. If we invest money in assisting all homeowners, apartment owners, government, commercial and industrial properties to install solar panels, we could then negotiate with LCRA to offer decent wholesale buyback rates. The City of San Marcos could earn a small cut towards covering the installation and maintenance costs for net metering. LCRA would gain in the overage by reselling at the higher rate. They also may consider storage options. Roland James of Seguin, Tx, Assistant/Policy advisor to Arizona utility regulator from 1985-1999, suggests we offer people the ability to finance efficiency and customer-side-of-the-meter clean energy, such as rooftop solar photovoltaics and solar hot water, by attachment to property tax over 20 years. Utilizing even some of these ideas could solve the need for building new dirty coal plants.

    San Marcos could benefit immediately and well into the future by taking a leadership role in accelerating green energy and water saving programs. We could start by reevaluating city zoning and building codes and implementing stronger, green, building standards, including more affordable, denser, and lower square footage building with higher R-values for attics, walls, floors and cathedral ceilings, solar hot water, south & southwest facing window overhangs and solar screens, xeriscaping and water collection minimal requirements. We could also apply the same or similar standards to remodeling existing structures. In both cases the upfront costs would be absorbed in a short time by overall energy and water savings.

    There are so many excellent ideas for improving the quality of living for all residents of San Marcos while lowering our ecological impact and in the long run decreasing everyone’s financial obligations. I invite our new Mayor, Daniel Guerrero, to take the lead in researching them and then enrolling all of San Marcos in making them happen.

  4. One other thing, in regards to:
    ‘“If the company is able to move as they predict, the San Marcos-Hays Solar Project will be in operation by 2013, making it one of the largest solar plants in the state,” said Amy Madison, President and CEO of the Greater San Marcos Economic Development Corporation.’

    I believe there are two other proposed solar projects that will be the largest solar plants in the state. One is a 30-megawatt plant near east Austin and the other is a 60-megawatt plant in Pflugerville.

  5. Dear Councilperson Mr. Prather,

    I also look forward to a future where the Commanche St project is complete.

    I fear our city will look silly if this $74,000,000 power plant is slapped up and running by 2013 while idle machinery continues to rust on this 1/10 mile stretch of torn up inner-city road.

    I also agree with Lynny Moore’s post and hope that you can carry and support these sensible (financially and environmentally) ideas back to the board room with you. I don’t know if you said “What a future !” because you like the idea of an alternative non-polluting energy or if you see it only as “Score one!” in the ‘Got a business’ column.

    Thanks and congratulations!

  6. I think the math above is wrong. Estimates that I have found, seem to indicate 5,000 to 20,000 homes can be powered by a 20 MW plant.

  7. You are right Ted, it should be 2865 households a day and I am having someone who runs a 20MW solar power plant give me the real figures based on a year’s worth of data. There will be some loss through the inverters and the transmission lines that I did not consider. The old rule of 1MW=1000 households was created before the invention of air conditioning. The average for San Marcos is 1130 kW-h a month per household or 37 kW-h per day over a period of a year. I divided this into the 106 MW capacity a day to get the 2865 household average. I have no idea how I came up with 94 the first time. 🙂

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