By Will McClure
Residents of Haskell County and surrounding areas will have a new form of electricity in the near future as construction began on a new solar farm on FM 600 just a few miles south of Lake Stamford Marina. With the support of the Haskell Economic Development Corporation and under the supervision of the Mortenson Construction Company of Minneapolis, Minnesota, the solar farm, under the ownership of OCI, began construction at the beginning of August and has a projected completion date of 18 months to 2 years. Wallace Emerson, Executive Director of the Haskell EDC, was able to give some information about the farm as the construction process moves forward.
With the initial actions coming from the Public Utility Commission of the State of Texas, the Haskell EDC became aware of the commission’s decision to build solar farms across the state of Texas and contacted the office about bringing one of the farms to Haskell County. After determining that there was plenty of space for the farm underneath power lines, a requirement for the farm to exist, and determining that the former electric generator plant would no longer function, the Commission granted its approval to begin construction on the farm. After receiving a long term lease from two land owners, Dan Riley Griffin and Jackie Sanders, the farm will be built on a combined 1200 acres of land, 600 each from the two land owners and completely within Haskell County.
Emerson stated that the farm will consist of solar panels, which are glass-surfaced and will be set with technology, allowing the panels to move with the sun throughout the day. The farm, once completed, will employ 8-10 permanent workers whose primary job will be to maintain the panels and replace them if needed. The farm, once fully operational, is expected to yield generous amounts of electricity.
“Out there on the site, they will also build another substation directly across Loop Road from the existing substation. From there, the electricity that they generate will go into the grid and is sold….they will generate a little over a 100 megawatts of electricity which is about half of the electricity that the former West Texas Utilities plant generated on Lake Stamford,” Emerson said.
During the construction process, it is expected that the construction will employ between 200-450 workers over the two year span, with over 100 workers employed right now during the initial construction. Mortenson, the company overseeing the construction, is currently doing business in Stamford during the process with Pate’s Hardware and may potentially also do business with Tractor Supply once it officially opens in October.
The farm is only one of many currently being built in the state of Texas, with sites in Fort Stockton and Uvalde also undergoing the construction process, to bring more, cheaper energy to the state. Emerson stated that he has received favorable feedback on the farm, which will be the third largest in the state, as not only will it bring more energy, but will also employ a lot of people, even if it is only temporary. The experience that the workers receive will allow them to perform similar jobs as more farms begin being constructed in Texas. While nothing is for sure until the farm is completed, there is a possibly that by acquiring the cheaper form of electricity from the sun, with enough solar power electric, customers may see lower bills in the future. However, nothing will be for certain until the farm is completed and operational. Until then, the construction process will continue to bring in new jobs as a different way of acquiring electricity slowly, but diligently, begins to take shape.