CPS Energy to launch massive, 400 MW solar project in San Antonio

In fact, the project will be so big—involving the construction of multiple solar plants in the San Antonio service area— that OCI, which currently is based in Atlanta, will move to San Antonio permanently. With 40 projects currently in development in Canada and the United States, OCI Solar Power is majority-owned by OCI Enterprises, the North American subsidiary of OCI Company Limited, which is headquartered in Seoul, Korea. OCI Company is one of the world’s leading producers of polysilicon, used to make solar cell components.

The 400 megawatt (MW) of energy generated will power the equivalent of 90,000 homes during daylight hours.

"OCI Solar Power is proud to partner with CPS Energy on its goal of creating a solar energy manufacturing and development hub in San Antonio. Our company will be working with the community to create jobs, spur economic growth, and provide the solar energy required to help the region achieve its commitment to sustainable energy using leading solar technologies," commented OCI Solar’s Board Chairman, Kirk Milling.

"This proposal would diversify our energy sources in a manner that makes good business sense and meets our objectives. Our goal is to always provide our ratepayers [with] safe, reliable, and affordable energy; and, wherever possible, to bring additional value to our community," said CPS President and CEO Doyle Beneby, continuing, "As San Antonio becomes a central hub for solar development in the United States, there is also a beneficial opportunity for other Texas-based municipal utilities to achieve their renewable energy goals by becoming sites for parts of the project."

With more than USD1 billion in construction investment, estimates place the economic development benefit from Texas construction at USD177 million. OCI Solar Power proposes to use mostly U.S.-manufactured equipment and to work with local firms for some aspects of the engineering, procurement, and construction.

On its website, OCI envisions "creating leading-edge plant design, including innovative dual-access trackers and the highest quality solar modules," and notes that the company is "building a consortium of global solar industry leaders with the latest high-performance technologies and processes [to] manufacture major components of [the] solar power plants in San Antonio."

In response to CPS Energy’s request for proposals, OCI Solar Power invited manufacturers from across the industry to be part of its consortium. The anchor manufacturer in the consortium is Seoul-based Nexolon—a global leader in manufacturing components used in solar panels.

As part of its commitment to the consortium, Nexolon would build a manufacturing facility and also would locate its North American headquarters in San Antonio. Nexolon’s founder and chairman, Woo Jeong Lee, said he is confident that the U.S. solar market will continue to grow. "Today’s commitment is only the beginning," he said at the news conference. His father is Soo Young Lee, chairman of OCI Company, Ltd.

The future addition of OCI Solar Power and Nexolon would bring the number of clean energy companies CPS Energy has attracted to San Antonio to seven. The utility revealed its plans to become a "New Energy Economy Hub" in June 2011.

Quoted on mySA.com, Mayor Castro highlighted the project’s connection to the citywide, aspirational goals of SA2020. He also noted the growing number of clean energy companies CPS Energy is attracting to San Antonio by leveraging its unique role in the city’s economic development.

As outlined by OCI Solar Power, the solar project would become operational in phases over the next five years. Construction on the first solar facility will begin in 2013, with additional facilities built through 2016, subject to power purchase agreement negotiations. OCI Solar Power beat out 18 other companies in a competitive bidding process.

CPS Energy is the nation’s largest municipally owned natural gas and electric utility, providing service to approximately 717,000 electric customers and 325,000 natural gas customers in and around the city of San Antonio. The utility ranks among the lowest-cost energy providers in the United States.