Here comes the sun: Construction set for large solar power near Lamesa

By Ellysa HarrisA-J Media

Feb 27, 2018 at 7:47 PM Feb 27, 2018 at 7:49 PM

Lamesa has high rates of solar radiation -AKA sunshine – and OCI Solar Power is tapping in.

Charles Kim, CEO and president of OCI Solar Power, said that played in to the decision by OCI and Renewable Energy Systems (RES) to start the Project Ivory Solar Facility in Lamesa.

On Tuesday, representatives from OCI and RES hosted a meeting for Lamesa community members for an update and to answer questions about the plans to build Dawson County’s second solar panel plant just outside Lamesa city limits. Construction of Project Ivory, also recognized as Lamesa II, is expected to begin in mid- to late-March or early April.

“Well, it’s been a windfall, to say the least, for everyone involved,” said Lamesa Mayor Josh Stevens.

The project will generate about 100 short-term jobs throughout construction, a handful of permanent positions, and land lease contracts for many land owners through at least the next 25 years, he said.

Lamesa I was started by BNB Renewable Energy Holdings LLC and was sold to Southern Power. RES worked with the company to build the facility, according to Drew Raines, construction manager for RES.

According to a fact sheet on the Southern Power website, the first phase of the Lamesa Solar Facility includes 410,000 solar panels spread across 887 acres and provides 102 megawatts of power.

Bart Geleynse, director of construction business development, and Timothy Heinle, vice president of business development, said the solar facility works by drawing renewable solar energy and passing it on to a grid where different companies that buy into it can tap in.

For example, Lamesa I is currently providing power to Garland, according to a fact sheet on the Southern Power website.

Kim and Sabah Mahmood, EPC manager for OCI, said Lamesa is part of a hot spot for solar radiation that runs down half of the Texas Panhandle from the Oklahoma border to the Mexico border.

The $85 million project will include 197,000 photovoltaic panels spread across 360 acres. It’s expected to generate 50 megawatts and should power about 35,000 homes, though not in the Lamesa area, according to OCI officials.

The added acreage and megawatts from Lamesa II, the second phase, will make the facility one of the largest in the state, according to company officials.

This will be the ninth large-scale solar project for OCI in Texas, according to Kim.

Gary and Judy Jones, longtime Lamesa residents and landowners affected by the first project, said they see no drawbacks. Some of their land is currently being leased for Lamesa I, which is not owned by OCI, and they’ve had no complaints so far.

That land, Gary Jones said, has been passed down through several generations of his family.

Doug Isaacs, a longtime Lamesa resident, said he sees no drawbacks either.

The top concern among the approximately 20 Lamesa residents who attended the meeting was weeds. They asked company officials who was going to control them.

“The big problem is a weed problem,” Isaacs said. “The weeds overtook (the first solar panel plant in Lamesa) really bad for a while.”

The weeds bother the residents because they blow around in the West Texas wind, he said. Other than that, he and the other residents are supportive of the project. RES officials assured the residents the weeds would be kept under control.

“I think it helps the community, it helps employ a lot of people and it helps local businesses,” Isaacs said.

Stores get more foot traffic and more housing is occupied, he said.

Stevens said the project won’t cost Lamesa citizens a dime.

“It won’t affect the citizens in any way,” Stevens said. “In the long run, it’ll be beneficial.”