The future of renewable energy in the Crossroads looks bright.

Two companies were listed on the Electric Reliability Council of Texas’ most recent interconnectivity status report as having projects in the region.

Sunchase Power has said it hopes to bring a 150 megawatt solar farm to Jackson County by 2020, while Sunshine Energy has said it hopes to bring a 172.83 megawatt solar farm to Victoria County by 2021.

Sunchase Power Vice President Will Furgeson addressed Jackson County Commissioners last month but did not ask for tax breaks, Jackson County Judge Jill S. Sklar said.

She didn’t know much about the project other than it will be in the Cordele area.

“I know solar projects don’t bring in a whole bunch of jobs once it’s up and going, so that, to me, is a little disappointing, but you know, I need to just get more information,” Sklar said.

Neither Sunchase Power nor Furgeson responded to requests for comment.

Even fewer details were available about what Sunshine Energy has planned for Victoria County.

Sunshine Energy formed in November. Caprock Solar Management was listed as a managing member on its paperwork filed with the Secretary of State’s Office, and Caprock’s general manager, Emily Raina Hornaday, was listed as Sunshine’s registered agent. Calls to Caprock’s office in Austin also were not returned.

Dale Fowler, president of the Victoria Economic Development Corporation, said he has talked to companies about potential solar projects but not Sunshine Energy. He said what makes Victoria attractive for a solar project is its proximity to electric transmission infrastructure and available land.

“Just because it is on that list (the ERCOT interconnectivity status report) doesn’t mean there’s an imminent project, but now that you’ve told me it’s on that list, you’ve given me something to follow up on,” Fowler said.

Goliad County is also trying to land a solar farm.

Earlier this year, Goliad County Judge Mike Bennett was quoted in the Goliad Advance Guard as saying that Vistra Energy, which owns the Coleto Creek Power Plant, planned to bring a solar panel array that would generate 125 megawatts of electricity and $100,000 in revenue for the county. But Bennett declined to provide an update on that.

“I’ve learned that I cannot comment because it puts deals in jeopardy,” he said.

Vistra spokeswoman Meranda Cohn confirmed it is not a done deal.

“Coleto Creek is one of many locations where we are evaluating the viability of adding solar and/or battery storage at our existing plant sites,” she said. “We are in the early stages and have not made a final determination on a potential project at the Coleto Creek Power Plant site.”

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Although the Texas Public Policy Foundation pushed for legislators to eliminate tax breaks for solar projects this past session, the program under which counties can offer companies the tax breaks was continued until 2029.

Roger Duncan, a research fellow at the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin, said with solar getting down to 3 to 4 cents per kilowatt hour, companies won’t need the tax breaks for long.

“We have the same potential for solar development in Texas as we had for wind development when that started 10 years ago and, in fact, in much of the same areas,” he said.

Duncan said although solar farms don’t provide an ongoing source of jobs once they’re operational, counties should welcome them because they provide a cleaner and cheaper source of energy for their residents.

Texas is expected to rise from fifth to second in the nation for the amount of solar power installed by 2023, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Jessica Priest reports on the environment and Calhoun County for the Victoria Advocate. She may be reached at jpriest@vicad.com or 361-580-6521.

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Former Environment/Investigations Reporter

Jessica Priest worked for the Victoria Advocate from August 2012-September 2019, first as the courts reporter and then as the environment/investigations reporter. Read her work now at www.jessicapriest.me.

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