Texas eyes big solar

One-tenth of the way – that’s about how far along OCI Solar Power is in constructing a planned 400-megawatt photovoltaic power generating plant in San Antonio. Still, even with just the 41-MW first phase completed, the company has now constructed the largest PV plant in Texas.

“Alamo I is an interesting milestone because it’s now the largest solar farm in Texas, but it’s still a small part of what is to come,” OCI Solar Power President and CEO Tony Dorazio said in a statement. “Alamo I is only step one to Texas’ rise as a big player in solar.”

The 41-megawatt Alamo I PV plant in Bexar County, Texas. (image via OCI Solar Power)

Texas is a behemoth when it comes to U.S. wind power – at the end of 2012, its 12,212 MW of installed capacity were more than twice that of second-place California (5,549 MW) – but it has been slow to embrace solar. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, in 2012 it ranked 12th in cumulative installed capacity with 51 MW, even though “if you include all of its usable land, the solar potential of Texas is more than twice that of any other state.”

The thing is, too, that solar could be a huge benefit to Texas exactly when it needs it – during the long hot summer.The Brattle Group last year said that during the state’s epic hot summer of 2011, solar PV would have helped hold down wholesale energy costs, which skyrocketed during periods of peak demand.

OCI is headquartered in South Korea, but much of the economic benefits of the company’s work in Texas should stay in Texas.

That’s because as part of its deal with the San Antonio municipal utility CPS Energy, OCI agreed to set up its U.S. headquarters in San Antonio, alongside Nexelon America, a subsidiary of the South Korea-based solar manufacturer Nexelon. The companies agreed to bring 800 jobs to San Antonio between them; already, according to the San Antonio Business Journal, their local payrolls add up to 170.

“San Antonio is fast becoming a leader in the New Energy Economy by combining economic development with environmentally sound practices,” San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro said in a statement. “This solar farm expands our clean energy portfolio while adding hundreds of 21st century manufacturing jobs to the local economy.”

* Pete Danko, EarthTechling