The final solar project goes online under 400 MW CPS/OCI deal

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On September 23, workers put online a 106 MW-AC solar project in the dry plains of Haskell County in North Texas. There was little media fanfare for this, one of the largest solar projects to be built in the state to date, and the final of seven projects which were originally planned to supply San Antonio municipal utility CPS under a 2012 deal.

The project’s owner, ConEdison Development, has been remarkably silent about Texas Solar 7. By close of Friday pv magazine staff was unable to even get ConEdison to confirm that this is the same project which ERCOT lists as being commissioned on September 23, as part of over 300 MW of wind and solar to go online during the month in Texas.

Texas Solar 7 is listed by ERCOT as Solara Solar, but was originally named Alamo 7. It is the seventh project by its original developer, OCI Solar Power, to supply power to CPS. As part of the deal brokered by former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, OCI agreed to bring manufacturing to San Antonio, including Mission Solar Energy’s 200 MW PV cell and module facility and a tracker factory, in exchange for contracts to sell power from 400 MW of solar.

However, some components of this agreement appear to have unravelled over the last four years.

The commissioning of Texas Solar 7 came a week beforeMission announced that it will close the cell portion of this factory, laying off 87 workers. The company says that it will be sourcing cells from Asia, and will focus on making PV modules.

OCI Solar Power also sold off at least two of the projects is developed, Alamo 5 and 7, to ConEdison Development, and Mission did not supply all seven of the projects. Mission parent company OCI says that it was not able to provide modules to Texas Solar 7 as it was at full capacity supplying Alamo 5 and 6. However, ConEdison’s website shows that Mission was one of three module suppliers to the 95 MW-AC Texas Solar 5 project (originally Alamo 5).

JinkoSolar and Yingli are listed as the suppliers to Texas Solar 7, however OCI states that the project utilizes trackers from its Sun Action Tracker facility in San Antonio. The project also uses KACO inverters, which were likely sourced from a San Antonio factory, meaning that some portions of this deal carried through to the end.

Despite these changes, these seven projects and the deal between OCI and CPS have played a historic role in jump-starting Texas’ booming solar market. GTM Research estimates that over 1 GW of utility-scale solar is currently under construction in the state, the second-largest volume in the country after California.

It also puts San Antonio at a very high penetration of PV. Without even counting local residential or commercial solar, CPS’ 741,000 electric customers are now receiving electricity from 540 watts of PV each, making CPS one of the most solar-powered utilities in the nation.