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Local solar project in the works

Wednesday, October 17, 2018 by Jessi Devenyns

At the Oct. 15 meeting of the Electric Utility Commission, commissioners unanimously voted to recommend a power purchase agreement that would bring online a solar generation facility with a capacity of 144 megawatts. Although the exact location of the solar farm has not been disclosed per confidentiality restrictions during the negotiation process, it is within Austin’s jurisdiction. Notwithstanding confidentiality, Commissioner Jim Boyle, who appeared to have some additional information about the project, shared that “It’s near Elgin; it’s up near that way.” The purchase agreement is estimated in the amount of $11 million per year, for a total estimated amount of $165 million. However, according to Khalil Shalabi, Austin Energy’s vice president of strategy, technology and markets, “It’s quite a competitor in price.” According to him, “this project will make Austin Energy money relative to the market.” Although there is a clause in the negotiation that would allow Austin Energy to negotiate a purchase price for the facility at the end of the contract term, Shalabi noted that for the moment it is more beneficial taxwise to simply buy the power. Although it is early in the negotiation stages, Commissioner Dave Tuttle was already inquiring how the facility would be run. “Any thoughts on if you can set it up where you can have tours?” he asked. Commissioner Karen Hadden too expressed her excitement about the project and asked, “How about a big opening celebration? … I want to come.” While Shalabi agreed that they all sounded like good ideas, he warned that it was a little early to begin planning on such a granular level. The project, he noted, still has to be completed first.

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