Nov. 16—The Central Texas business corridor is growing yet again — this time with a massive $1 billion investment from California-based company Chem-Energy to build two power plant facilities in Caldwell County.
Chem-Energy selected Caldwell County as the location in which it will invest over $1 billion to develop "two innovative solar and battery power plant facilities," according to a new release from the Greater San Marcos Partnership. The local economic-development group touted the project as the "largest economic development win (by capital investment) in the history of the Texas Innovation Corridor."
The first facility will be constructed on 3,518 acres in Caldwell Valley Ranch in the vicinity of Uhland, about 50 miles northeast of San Antonio. Construction on that facility is slated to begin in Spring 2022 and it will be operational by the following year.
The second facility will be located in Martindale, east of San Marcos. Construction is expected to begin following the completion of the Caldwell Valley facility. Additional facilities are planned across Central Texas soon.
The properties acquired for the current projects mostly consist of empty land and ranch land east of San Marcos.
Brad Heitland is business development executive for Mortenson Construction, which is the engineer and builder of the solar facilities.
"Chem-Energy's innovative approach to solar energy will result in a facility design unlike anything seen before in the industry," Heitland said in a news release. "Solar projects tend to be larger and more complex than other energy generators. I firmly believe that we will be setting a new standard for energy production both in the Texas Innovation Corridor and throughout the state."
The Caldwell Valley Ranch facilities will feature a combined total of 600 megawatt/1,200 megawatt-hours in battery storage and 600 total megawatts of solar power generation. The facilities will primarily serve the Electric Reliability Council of Texas and the Texas power grid, as well as the local community, offering clean energy to regional power providers such as Bluebonnet Electric and the Lower Colorado River Authority.
The facilities will bring in 400 full-time, permanent positions in the first year, providing an average wage of at least $53,200 a year, plus benefits, according to the news release. In partnership with Austin Community College-Hays Campus, the Martindale facility will also be home to the country's first standardized solar photovoltaic (PV) and battery storage training facility that will provide certifications for Chem-Energy team members.
Initial hiring is expected to begin in spring of 2022.
Chem-Energy said in the release that it will be focused on recruiting locally for their positions, including the targeting of veterans and other underserved groups. Trainees will be taught at Austin Community College's Hays County campus, in a training program that was created by Chem-Energy and the college.
"This is a prime example of how strategic partnerships result in unprecedented economic development opportunities for the residents of Hays and Caldwell Counties," Jason Giulietti, president of the Greater San Marcos Partnership, said in the news release. "Between the high-paying jobs, the incoming workforce training facilities and our region becoming a future resource to the statewide power grid, this will unquestionably raise the quality of life for residents throughout the Texas Innovation Corridor."
Chem-Energy on Nov. 5 entered into a performance-based Chapter 381 agreement with Caldwell County, providing the county with a projected $22.4 million in added total net tax revenue over the next 10 years.
Per the agreement, Chem-Energy will invest more than $1.1 billion in the project for the next nine years, to be divided between land investments, building improvements and furniture, fixtures and equipment for all the facilities.
"We welcome the largest economic development win in the Texas Innovation Corridor to Caldwell County," Caldwell County Judge Hoppy Haden said. "This is a seismic development for our region which will establish several new opportunities in our community. We anticipate that Chem-Energy will be a long-term community partner to Caldwell County."
Annie Blanks writes for the Express-News through Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. ReportforAmerica.org. email@example.com.
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