Solar Power in Big Texas Cities

Posted on: July 11, 2016
By: Alan O'Neill
Posted in: Houston TX, Local News

Southern Co. buying Lamesa solar farm

As solar energy systems become more efficient and affordable, our city governments and utility companies are starting to see the benefits. And they are investing in more renewable energy options. Just recently, Garland, Texas joined other cities like Austin and San Antonio in acquiring new energy sources. According to an article by FuelFix, The LaMesa Project consists of more than 400,000 solar panels and will be operational in March 2017.

Atlanta-based Southern Co. continued buying Texas solar projects Thursday by scooping up the Lamesa solar farm from RES Americas.

Southern is acquiring the 102-megawatt farm under development from the U.S. subsidiary of U.K.-based Renewable Energy Systems. The solar farm is being financed through a 15-year contract with the city of Garland to power more than 25,000 homes.

Garland, northeast of Dallas, and the Austin suburb of Georgetown are among the smaller towns joining larger cities such as San Antonio and Austin in undertaking solar projects.

The Lamesa project, about 50 miles north of Midland, will sit on 887 acres in Dawson County with more than 400,000 solar panels. Construction is expected to begin by the end of July and come online a year later. The project is few months behind schedule. The Texas grid manager initially expected the Lamesa project to become operational in March 2017.

Southern Co. and RES didn’t reveal the acquisition price.

A lot of solar projects are facing delays until costs come down, but some are being fast-tracked through contracts with municipal utilities, said Rob Morgan, chief strategy officer for RES Americas, in a recent interview.

“In this particular case, there was some pressure to be online sooner than later,” Morgan said of Lamesa.

Morgan said he expects a bigger surge in Texas solar in five years or less when he believes solar will becomes more economic than wind power, which already has a major Texas footprint.

In 2015 and earlier this year, Southern Co. bought two other solar farms in Pecos County that are under development to power the Austin area. The 157-megawatt Roserock Solar farm and the 120-megawatt East Pecos Solar facility are both expected to come online by the end of this year.

A traditional integrated utility company, Southern Co. has made an effort to diversify with more renewable power in recent years and Texas solar projects are playing a big part in that effort.

“The Lamesa project is an excellent fit for Southern Power’s business model,” said Southern Power President and CEO Buzz Miller in the announcement. “We are committed to developing renewable energy sources and are pleased with the continued growth of our solar portfolio.”

Texans are fortunate that this vast renewable resource is just down the road from Wind Energy Capital of Texas (aka West Texas) which uses hundreds of wind turbines to capture wind energy. This increase of renewable resources to keep the air conditioning running may even lower our electric bills.

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