As frequently as we all use the terms “massive” or “unprecedented”, they are frequently diluted through overuse and hyperbole. Please take a minute to wipe any such connotation to these words, as they are about to embody their fullest meanings. Why is this? This is because ground has been broken and construction is commencing on Enel Green Power North America’s Roadrunner solar project, a 497 MWdc behemoth of a project located in Upton County, Texas.
497 MWdc. Enel is pitching it as the largest solar plant in Texas, which is both accurate and selling the project short. The truth is this is among the largest projects in the nation known to pv magazine, exceeded only by a few plants, including the 550 MW Topaz, 550 MW Desert Sunlight and 747 MWdc Rosamond plants, all of which are in California.
Now one would think that a plant this large is going to take some time to construct and Enel would appear to reflect this by anticipating staged completion. However, the first 252 MWdc phase of the project, which is the phase that has broken ground, is anticipated to be completed by the end of this year. The remaining 245 MWdc is expected to reach completion just a year later, at the end of 2020 – an impressively fast timeline.
Furthermore, this is not the only behemoth that Enel is developing in Upton County, let alone Texas. In early January the company broke ground on the High Lonesome wind project, a 450 MW wind farm which it expects to become operational by the end of the year. Fun fact about High Lonesome: it will be, once completed, the largest wind farm in Texas, so Enel will hold the claim for both the largest wind and solar farms in the Lone Star state.
Texas is about to enter into a prolific solar boom and this project is just the start. Don’t believe it? Well, look no further than this report from ERCOT which outlines the 43.5 GWac of solar project applications in its interconnection queue. Of that massive figure, 5,081 MW of these projects have interconnection agreements and plans to complete construction by the end of either 2019 or 2020. Going further down the line, ERCOT lists 2,657 MW of that previous figure as having “financial security and notice to proceed,” with 1,232 MW of those financially supported expected to come online during 2019.
Even if that 1.2 GW prediction ends up being the final number and disappoints in comparison to those larger figures listed, it would still be the first time Texas installed over 1 GW of solar in a year. A benchmark like that would show that this isn’t just optimistic conjecture, these projects are getting pitched, approved and built.
And it should come as no surprise, right? Everything is bigger down in Texas, so it only makes sense that they have a massive interconnection queue. In fact, speaking of bigger, December was the first time that solar’s queue in Texas has been larger than wind’s, which is quite the feat considering the level of wind development the state has seen.
So now, as we so frequently do, we play the waiting game: to see this project come on-line, to see if others follow suit and to see how much of ERCOT’s queue gets built. Either way, one thing is true: that solar developers are singing like George Strait “Texas is the place I’d dearly love to be.”