Lincoln Clean Energy plans large Texas Panhandle PV facility

Lincoln Clean Energy is planning a 260MW (dc) PV facility about 48 miles (77.2km) south of Amarillo, the first utility-scale project in the northern Panhandle and the latest sign that developers see Texas as a promising solar growth market.

Now in late-stage development, the construction schedule for Nazareth Solar in Swisher County is unclear. It would need to enter commercial operation by the end of 2016 to qualify for the federal 30% investment tax credit. After then, the ITC will drop down to 10% unless Congress were to extend it.

Chicago-based Lincoln is not commenting on the project’s status at this time, Wendy Prabhu, who handles the account for public relations firm Mercom Capital Group in the state capital Austin, tells Recharge.  

The Amarillo Globe-News newspaper reports that Lincoln reached agreement with the Tulia Independent School District to cap the taxable value of the project at $20m per year for a decade. This will lower its maintenance and operations taxes by about one-third.

Swisher County also gave the developer a tax incentive that encourages it to build a larger project.

Lincoln is no stranger to the Panhandle, having built 200MW and 300MW wind projects there.

The Panhandle is attractive for both solar and wind. Developers have the option to ship power via new long-distance transmission lines to the state’s main grid operated by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas or via Southwestern Public Power, which serves the Panhandle, to the larger Southwest Power Pool.

SPP operates a grid serving all or parts of eight states.

While Texas’ best solar resource is located in the southwestern and western parts of the state, it is also quite good in the Panhandle.

Texas’ PV development has lagged some eastern and western states, but declining costs have made it competitive with new and sometimes existing generation. As solar will need to compete on cost given minimal state incentives, this is good news for developers anxious to supply its rising load growth driven by a $1.62trn industrial economy and surging population.