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$1 billion solar and battery plants coming to Central Texas

A major solar panel and battery plant are coming Caldwell County. (CC)

A petroleum trading firm, Chem-Energy Corp., will invest $1 billion in solar and battery power plants with two facilities south of Austin.

Construction on the Caldwell County plants will start with the solar complex in spring 2022 in Uhland. That facility has a planned opening in 2023 and will be followed with construction on a site in Martindale. According to the Greater San Marcos Partnership, the facilities will create 400 full-time jobs in the first year and the average wages will meet or exceed $53,200 a year.

California-based Chem-Energy boasts their facilities will provide 600 megawatt/1,200 megawatt-hours in battery storage and 1 gigawatt of solar power generation over a decade. The plants will primarily serve ERCOT and the Texas power grid, and join a host of others in the oil and gas sector making small pivots to renewables while sticking with core business activities, including work in petrochemicals and refinery projects.

Chief of Staff at Chem-Energy Clint Evans said the team is enthusiastic about the facilities being in his stomping grounds, as he's a Texas State University alumnus. "We're grateful to God for providing a huge win for the Texas Innovation Corridor," he said.

The plans require a few partnerships, including with Kore Power, which will provide high energy density NMC batteries for power storage. CEO Lindsay Gorrill said Kore Power is thrilled by the partnership and its plans "to provide Texas with long-term, reliable energy resources that will strengthen the Texas Interconnection electric grid system."

In a special meeting last week, Caldwell County commissioners unanimously approved performance-based incentives for Chem-Energy. The deal, known as a Chapter 381 agreement, allows counties to establish tax abatements and administer loans and grants of public money to promote economic development. According to the Austin Business Journal, details of the agreement weren't immediately available, but include a projected $22.4 million in added total net tax revenue over 10 years.

"We welcome the largest economic development win in the Texas Innovation Corridor to Caldwell County," County Judge Hoppy Haden said. "This is a seismic development for our region which will establish several new opportunities in our community."

In a pledge to the Austin Community College Hays Campus, Chem-Energy said the Martindale facility will include the country's first standardized solar PV and battery storage training facility where those hired can earn certifications. Chem-Energy says they'll be focused on recruiting locally and are expecting to hire in April 2022 with the training facility following in late spring that year. Trainees will undergo three months in the classroom and then another 30 days of lab and hands-on training.

Jason Giulietti, president of the Greater San Marcos Partnership, described Chem-Energy's move into the region as "unprecedented economic development opportunities."

"Between the high-paying jobs, the incoming workforce training facilities, and our region becoming a future resource to the statewide power grid, this will unquestionably raise the quality of life for residents throughout the Texas Innovation Corridor," Giulietti said.

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