VISD agrees to receive tax incentive proposal from renewable energy company

Caprock Renewables representatives discuss its project, Sunshine Energy, with the Victoria ISD school board during a special meeting Tuesday. The company is seeking a Chapter 313 tax limitation break for its solar energy project that is proposed to be built in the southeast portion of Victoria County.

The Victoria ISD school board agreed 4-0 to receive and review a possible tax limitation application from Sunshine Energy.

The board met Tuesday morning for a special meeting to discuss the Chapter 313 application. Board members Kevin VanHook, Ross Mansker and Brett Baldwin were not present for the meeting.

Under Chapter 313, or the Texas Economic Development Act, a taxpayer agrees to build or install property to create jobs. In exchange, the taxpayer – or Sunshine Energy – would receive 10 years of tax limitations on its property through the school district.

Tax limitations are reserved to the school district’s maintenance and operations tax, according to the Texas Comptroller.

Now that the district has received an application, it will review the materials with an attorney to determine whether the company is eligible for Chapter 313. The application will then be sent to the Texas Comptroller to review and make a recommendation to the district.

Superintendent Quintin Shepherd said he will play a role in reviewing the application, and he sees the agreement as a “great benefit” if it works out.

“There is no cost to the taxpayer for us to go through this process,” he said.

Sunshine Energy is a project under Caprock Renewables. The company is a renewable energy corporation based in Austin. Caprock Renewables is almost five years old and develops solar, wind and storage projects.

The project would be developed on 1,700 acres of farmland in the southeast corner of Victoria County near Port Lavaca off U.S. 87, said Raina Hornaday, Caprock Renewables general manager.

Location is important when looking at a solar field, Hornaday said. This project needs large plots of flat land, access to resources and consistent sun. The land was acquired through the landowner after it was determined all the needed requirements were met, she said.

Troy Reed, tax services manager through Ernst and Young, said the project will produce enough energy to light 30,000 homes a year.

The Victoria County project has a lifespan of 35-40 years, which may be extended if it’s successful, Reed said.

In the development phase of the project, 200-300 people will be hired for construction, Reed said. Two local job fairs will be scheduled to find residents to fill those jobs.

Sunshine Energy is projected to start construction in late 2020 and be completed by late 2021. The project will take 12 to 18 months to complete, Reed said.

“It’s essential to get these projects up and running,” he said.

He said Caprock Renewables representatives are working with the county commissioners, and the company will update any roads they are using for the project.

“It’s a project that takes little from the community to build it,” he said.

Hornaday said they are looking to the county commissioners for a tax abatement as well. She said without tax breaks, the $120 million project is not likely to reach fruition.

“Tax abatements are critical for the project to move forward,” she said.

After construction is complete, Caprock Renewables will sell the development, Reed said.

Hornaday said the investors who buy the project will more than likely keep Caprock Renewables involved in the process.

About two or three full-time employees will be hired to maintain the facility, she said.

“Once (the facilities) are up and running, they’re quiet,” she explained. “We just can’t create more jobs than that.”

Dale Fowler, Victoria Economic Development Corporation president, said Sunshine Energy would strengthen the area’s energy infrastructure, which is important for companies looking to move to the community.

He said the company brings new investment into Victoria, and locals can benefit from job opportunities during the construction phase of the project. It will also bring a new tax base, regardless of possible tax deductions, for the area.

“Every project needs to be recognized for the benefits it brings,” Fowler said.

Hornaday said Caprock Renewables plans to use the development as an educational tool for Victoria ISD. The district can choose how much involvement they want from the company.

Board president Tami Keeling said it’s great to see the commitment to education, and she looks forward to seeing that partnership as the renewable energy field grows.

“It’s a big field, and it’s nice to see (the education) piece in there,” she said.

Board member Estella De Los Santos said she is thankful Caprock Renewables chose Victoria, and she is a strong proponent of renewable energy alternatives.

Board member Mike Mercer asked about the two or three jobs that will be left for the long term, wanting to know whether local residents could fill those full-time positions.

That decision is up to the company that buys the development, Reed said.

Mercer said he was excited for the tax revenue the project would bring to the district.

“It’s more shoulders to heave the burden,” he said.

Samantha Douty is the education reporter at the Victoria Advocate. She grew up in Corpus Christi and graduated from UT-Arlington with a bachelor's in journalism.

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