CONNIE SWINNEY • STAFF WRITER
JOHNSON CITY — Pedernales Electric Cooperative has struck a deal with a private energy developer and Johnson City officials to build a 14-acre solar farm to offset utility cost during peak times of the year, officials said.
Two projects on the 19-acre property, located just off U.S. 290 West, could break ground in May or June.
The projects at the site, producing one megawatt each, will be comprised of about 3,000 solar panels measuring 2 feet by 5 feet each.
PEC brokered a deal between the city of Johnson City and the developer, Renewable Energy Systems America Inc., to lease the property for the solar energy system.
“This project will benefit our city from both an economic and environmental standpoint, and we are excited to be the future home to two state-of-the-art facilities,” Johnson City Mayor Dawn Capra said in a statement.
The solar farm is a first-of-its-kind program for the cooperative’s supplemental alternative energy system, which would include 10-15 projects in other locations over the next year
“These projects help PEC save money because solar power has the unique benefit of producing power when it’s needed most: during the day and particularly during the summer when prices are really high,” said Ingmar Sterzing, PEC’s vice president of power supply and energy services.
“These projects help offset higher energy costs that PEC otherwise would have to purchase from the market,” he added. “It also has the benefits of providing reliability to our local grid or distribution system.”
Capra offered reassurances to residents who raised questions about the environmental and economic impact of the project.
“A recent environmental study concluded that the equipment will have no adverse impact to area flora and fauna, and its design has been optimized to reduce footprint,” Capra said. “(The operator) will pay property taxes that benefit our city and school district. The facility will be constructed at no cost to the city.”
PEC officials are set to draft a plan on how members can save by participating in the program.
“We’re currently considering, and will be discussing with our board, a rate structure that would allow members to eventually subscribe to a portion of the project,” Sterzing said. “That would provide a certain rate characteristic some people are interested in through solar.”
What better place to usher in a foray into alternative energy than the community where the cooperative is headquartered, Capra said.
“Since Johnson City is the hometown of President (Lyndon B.) Johnson, who brought electricity to the area (and subsequently founded PEC), we thought that having Johnson City be the first in PEC’s plans for solar power throughout their region would be apropos,” she said.
Once construction gets underway, the solar farm could take about three months to complete.