Climate News

Texas renewables developer raises capital for massive solar farm projects


Two months ago, millions of Texans shivered under blankets as a historic winter storm drove the state’s power grid to the brink of collapse. Now, Caprock Renewables, a utility-scale developer based in Austin, Texas, is planning to raise equity for a big $500-million portfolio of solar projects in Texas, according to a recent report from Bloomberg.

Thanasis Iatrou, the company’s chief executive officer (CEO), said their portfolio consists of three, build-ready projects in southern Texas. Iatrou also said they have contracted 520 megawatts of capacity to a financial corporation with a tax equity investment accounting for 35 percent of the portfolio’s estimated cost.

But Caprock Renewables’s planned projects come as power-plant investors are dealing with heavy losses from Texas’s energy crisis following February’s winter storm. The possibility of regulatory changes may also drive up costs for renewable generators. Nonetheless, Iatrou is confident the issues will be resolved soon.

In a phone interview with Bloomberg, he said the issues could be resolved in the next six months. Iatrou plans to get a deal done with the tax equity investor in the fourth quarter. Caprock Renewables has hired global financial services firm Cantor Fitzgerald to advise on the process.

Massive solar farm to serve Texas’s power grid

The winter storm drew attention to Texas’s power grid and the deficit of its power plants, prompting a number of companies to explore solar projects that might better sustain the state’s power grid. (Related: Federal regulators plan to investigate Texas power outages.)

Rosendin Electric, an electrical contractor headquartered in San Jose, California, has joined with the U.S. subsidiary of Japan’s largest gas utility, Tokyo Gas, to build a major solar project just outside Houston.

The two are working on the Aktina Renewable Power Project. This is a 500-Megawatt, Alternating Current (MWac) solar farm spanning 4,000 acres in Wharton County some 50 miles southwest of Houston. MWac describes the installed capacity of a solar array and its inverters.

Rosendin Electric and Tokyo Gas America said the project includes roughly 1.4 million solar modules. The companies expect the project to begin coming online later this year. If completed as scheduled, the project would be the largest operating solar power project in Texas.

Rosendin Electric said on Monday, April 5, that it expects the project to be complete in the first half of 2022, if not sooner.

Moreover, electricity generated by the project will be brought online in blocks beginning mid-2021. The blocks will then be sold to the wholesale market of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the grid operator for most of Texas.

Solar projects already underway

Several massive solar power projects were already being developed in Texas prior to the deep freeze. Vistra, an electricity and power generation company based in Irving, announced plans last October to build two solar farms in the Forest Grove area of Henderson County and in Henderson city of Rusk County.

The construction of the two farms is part of Vistra’s thrust toward renewable energy. The company has already built solar farms in West Texas, which began commercial operations in 2018.

Vistra hasn’t given a definite answer about how many jobs the new solar farms will offer. But a company spokesperson said each site will offer about 1,000 jobs during construction.

The companys said the two solar farms will be massive, 200-MW facilities. Both are expected to be operational in 2022. “[Electricity] is an essential resource,” said Curtis Morgan, president and CEO of Vistra. “[The] demand for it will continue to grow as climate initiatives are implemented and the economy is further electrified.”

Follow SolarTechReview.com for more articles with updates on Texas’s major solar projects.

Sources include:

Bloomberg.com

PowerMag.com

KLTV.com

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