The best little utility-scale solar roundup in Texas

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Big solar projects in the U.S. are back in style and the Lone Star state is a hotbed of developer activity.

These large solar projects are no longer driven by RPS edicts or government loan programs — but by corporate clean energy buyers, utility offtakers and the sheer competitive pricing of solar (or solar-plus-storage) compared to other generation sources.

Big solar project news, Texas edition

Texas is perfect for big solar. Although the state has no renewable portfolio standard, it has Texas sun, lots of land and a competitive energy-only marketplace. Texas is projected to be the No. 2 state in new solar capacity over the next five years, according to SEIA, and remains one of the fastest growing solar energy markets in the country.

Here are five enormous Texas solar projects at various stages of development in the news.

200-MW Holstein Solar

Duke announced the commercial operation of its Holstein Solar project in Nolan County, Texas last month.

The project was acquired from developer 8minute Solar Energy which also brought hedge, tax equity and debt counterparties to the project. The project is 8minute’s first completed installation in Texas and the company has four others in development in Texas, totaling almost 1 gigawatt in capacity. According to the company, the portfolio is expected to generate roughly $1 billion in capital investment, $60 million in land payments and $120 million in local tax revenues. The projects are also expected to create more than 1,000 construction jobs and another 2,000 indirect jobs.

The Holstein project will contain over 709,000 solar panels across approximately 1,300 acres in Wingate, Texas. Much of the energy generated from the Holstein Solar Project will be sold through a 12-year term hedge agreement to J. Aron & Company, a subsidiary of Goldman Sachs — the first Duke solar project to utilize a hedge agreement.

CIT furnished $204.5 million in debt financing for the Holstein project.

The solar project’s design, procurement of inverters, balance of plant systems and construction were performed by Blattner Energy. First Solar Energy Services will be the O&M service provider under a five-year agreement.

Holstein Solar

200-MW Rambler Solar

The 200-MWac Rambler Solar project in Tom Green County, Texas, has begun commercial operation, according to owner Duke Energy Renewables.

Here are some project details.

  • 200-MWac project on approximately 1,700 acres, west of San Angelo, Texas
  • 733,000 Canadian Solar high-efficiency bifacial modules
  • Construction performed by Signal Energy
  • Duke Energy Renewables will provide O&M services for the project.
  • Energy generated by Rambler is being sold under a 15-year agreement.

Duke Energy Renewables acquired the Rambler Solar project in September 2019 from Recurrent Energy.

Rambler Solar

514-MW Aktina Solar

Hecate Energy, the largest privately-held independent solar power developer in the U.S., sold its 514-MWac Aktina Solar PV power plant in Wharton County, Texas, to Tokyo Gas America. When finished, Aktina Solar is expected to be the largest solar PV project in the state and one of the largest in the country. The project is scheduled to break ground this quarter, with the first blocks operational by Q3 2021.

This project is Tokyo Gas’ first acquisition outside of Japan, and will bring the company’s total PV portfolio to 1.2 GW. Developer Hecate has now contracted or sold 2 GW of solar projects and an additional 100 MW of battery storage.

350-MW Red-Tailed Hawk

The 350-MWac Red-Tailed Hawk project in Wharton County, Texas will be developed by utility J-Power USA – which runs a 6.5 GW, 12-site gas portfolio in the U.S. – along with investor Avondale Solar and Hong Kong-based project developer Solar Plus Development through their AP Solar Holdings joint venture.

The Red-Tailed Hawk project is planned near the load center of Houston, a high power demand area, and is set to be operational in 2022 after breaking ground this year. Mark Condon, CEO of J-Power USA, has labelled the location “the fastest growing load pocket in Ercot,” in a reference to Texan electricity transmission system operator Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

J-Power USA’s parent is a 60-year-old Japanese utility with an 18-GW coal, hydro, pumped storage and wind portfolio. The project is expected to break ground in the second half of this year and is slated to enter operational phase by 2022.

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3 comments

  1. Thanks Eric. Love that the biggest electricity using/producing state is becoming a solar power house, too. I saw a WoodMac projection that Texas will have about 34GW of wind installed by 2022. If they can get the same amount of solar installed it would be wonderful. In ERCOT’s recent pipeline data that solar has passed wind in Interconnect Agreements. That is pretty huge.

  2. These utility scale installations are likely to lower the wholesale price of electricity to the point that rooftop residential solar will not be competitive. There are a few hours a year with extremely high rates, but it’s hard to justify for the rest of the year. I know it’s pandemic rates this year, but wholesale rates certainly look attractive.

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