BRYAN, TX — Invenergy, a Chicago-based developer of electricity generation facilities, is building a 1,310-megawatt solar energy project in northeast Texas.
The Samson Solar Energy Center, located across three counties, will be the nation's largest solar site upon completion.
Bristi Cure, Invenergy’s Director of Renewable Development, says several companies are buying the output through power purchasing agreements to meet their own renewable goals, as well as three Texas cities- Denton, Garland, and Bryan.
“As solar energy continues to improve and pricing have continued to come down, basically the customers are getting the best deal because they’re getting cheap energy developed and produce right here in Texas,” said Cure.
The purchasing agreement between Samson Solar and Bryan Texas Utilities is for 150 megawatts, the largest of the three cities. Gary Miller, BTU’s General Manager, says the City of Bryan will get 100 megawatts while Texas A&M University will get 50 megawatts.
“We already have 60 megawatts of wind capacity under contract and 10 megawatts of solar capacity under contracts, so we’ve had those for several years, probably about ten years in total, and so this 100-megawatt purchase will augment the 70 megawatts that we currently have under contract,” said Miller.
Solar energy is projected to be the fastest-growing contributor to Texas’ power grid in the next three years. With natural gas being the sole competitor to renewable energy, experts say the Samson Solar Project is extremely competitive.
“Really it’s competitive to operate because after all, the marginal cost of the sun is zero. You don’t have to do anything for it. It’s going to have 12 full-time employees and across a large acreage and a large footprint that’s just minimal maintenance,” said Ed Hirs, Energy Fellow at the University of Houston.
As a $1.6 billion capital investment, the Samson Solar project will bring more than $250 million in landowner payments and support local communities through nearly $200 million in property tax payments over the life of the project.
“Obviously those local counties are seeing a great benefit as far as property taxes. The local school systems are seeing a huge influx because of that property tax money, so they are definitely benefiting,” said Cure.
As a whole, when complete, it will produce enough energy to power nearly 300,000 American homes, 10,000 of which will be homes in the City of Bryan. Gary Miller says this power purchasing agreement is by far the best economical electricity BTU can provide from their customers.
“So from a rates perspective, this will allow us to keep our rates at a very reasonable level as compared to our competitors across the state,” said Miller.
Texas A&M University says their 50 megawatts will provide at least 20% of the campus’s electric needs for the foreseeable future.