San Antonio lands landmark energy deal, creates 805 jobs
By Melody Mendoza
The landmark deal with OCI, which develops, owns and operates solar power plants in North America, according to the company’s website, will bring 400 megawatts of solar power throughout the state in five phases.
CPS Energy is contracted to buy all the energy output for 25 years as the sole beneficiary, CPS Energy spokesperson John Moreno said. This will provide clean energy to an equivalency of 70,000 homes and create more than 800 long-term jobs at $47,000 per year in the next three to five years.
“We are leading the way right now through this contract,” Moreno said of San Antonio.
Tony Dorazio, recently-appointed president of OCI Solar Power, said OCI will be the owner and operator of the solar farms, which will provide CPS Energy with the 400 megawatts for the next 25 years.
OCI, whose parent is a South Korean chemical company, will be headquartered in San Antonio as a part of the agreement to bring jobs to the area. Dorazio said the move from OCI’s smaller facility in Atlanta, GA, to San Antonio, which is in a sun belt area, was a positive change for OCI.
“We will continue to grow in San Antonio,” he said.
He also said it will be a positive change for Nexolon America LCC, also a South Korean firm, who will build their headquarters in San Antonio and provide solar panels to OCI.
“We’re in a growing stage; a transition stage; an entry stage,” Dorazio said of OCI and Nexolon. “It was a natural fit in San Antonio.”
Boosting the economy
Moreno said CPS Energy seeks to partner with green companies like OCI, and leverages with these companies to bring jobs to San Antonio and surrounding residents.
While job listing requirements and qualifications have not yet been announced for this five-part project, Moreno said Nexolon, who will begin the first phase of construction on a 50-megawatt facility in San Antonio, will be hiring construction workers as soon at January 2013.
Then, he said, after the facility is built, OCI will employ in the technical and professional fields.
Dorazio said there will be a mixture of job types that will come available including entry-level, manufacturer, civil and electrical engineering and marketing positions.
He also said OCI has already connected with UTSA, where Dorazio is scheduled to meet with university officials on campus in September. He said he will be speaking with the dean and the head of the engineering department about internship programs.
Bringing solar power to San Antonio also means there will be less megawatts of fossil fuels like coal burning, which will reduce the environmental impact, Moreno said.
This deal also reduces the chance for future fees to CPS Energy customers. Moreno said CPS Energy is regulated on the amount of emission is generated. If the company has too much, they can be fined, which will result in higher fees for its customers.
“It’s a win-win situation,” Moreno said.
Moreno said the site of the locations have not been determined, and megawatts may be split into more than one facility. The first phase is expected to be completed by mid 2013, according to a report on the OCI Solar Power website.
Moreno said CPS Energy is waiting on land availability for the 50-megawatt facilities. He said the companies are looking for land that is close to CPS Energy existing infrastructure so there won’t be extra costs for utility poles, wires and substations.
Process from sun to power
CPS Energy also partners with companies like Duke Energy, which owns and operates Blue Wing, a 14.4 megawatt solar farm south of Brooks City-Base near the intersection of IH-37 and U.S. 181. This is one of three solar farms in San Antonio.
On a recent day, Moreno explained the process of creating energy at a solar farm to its transport to residents’ homes from Blue Wing.
He said solar farms work similarly depending on the types of panels implemented. Blue Wing has stationary panels that don’t follow the sun. Moreno said OCI will determine if their solar farms will have tracking or stationary panels.
At Blue Wing, Moreno explained that the panels receive light from the sun, which causes electrons embedded in the panels to flow, creating electricity.
Then, the electrons flow out of the panels into a combiner box located amongst the solar panels on the farm. The current moves from the box to a power station also located on the solar farm, where it’s converted from direct current (DC) power to alternating current (AC) power.
Moreno said the voltage that comes out of the combiner box is measured as 700 volts of DC. In the power station, an inverter transforms the current into 480 volts of AC. Then, the current goes into a cabinet next to the power station where it’s increased from 480 to 13,200 volts of AC, which is the voltage needed to distribute power to homes.
Electricity then moves to a substation and through distribution lines to a customer’s home. Power from Blue Wing is distributed to two substations — one located near Brooks City-Base and another in Elmendorf, providing power for nearby residents.
Moreno explained that because the power is directed straight to those substations, the rest of San Antonio does not get power from Blue Wing. But in other cases, if the power is transported to high transmission, which goes to the state grid, the power can be distributed to any CPS Energy customer. Moreno added that CPS Energy can then receive credit for putting power on the state grid.