Solar Farms

A photo of what solar panels covering the country-side might look like as several proposed solar farms are looking to build in Lamar and surrounding Northeast Texas counties.

Let the sun shine on Northeast Texas.

Several large alternative energy firms are knocking on the door of Lamar and surrounding counties as solar takes its place among wind farms as an alternative to coal-fired energy production. Area school districts are expected to see the most economic benefit, but county and other governmental entities will benefit as well.

Chisum Solar, a $12.1 million farm came online earlier this year as the first in Lamar County, while two other companies are in the process of establishing farms in Lamar and Red River counties with an estimated value of almost a half a billion dollars each. A third and smaller project valued at $240 million recently gained Texas Comptroller approval and is expected to begin construction later this year.

Chisum Solar online

Located on 60 acres off FM 196 about two miles south of Blossom, Chisum Solar delivers power, expected to be sufficient to serve about 1,500 houses, to an Oncor substation about a mile north of the property.

Lamar County created an investment zone for the 60 acres, which opens the door for federal tax incentives for parent company Cyprus Creek Renewables, based in Santa Monica, Calif. The county also granted a five-year declining tax abatement. Located in Prairiland ISD, the district expects to receive $130,000 in property taxes beginning this year.

Impact Solar approved

In March, Prairiland ISD approved tax incentives for the first of two large solar farms looking to locate in the district. Before a packed audience, Prairiland trustees approved tax incentives for GSE Twelve’s Impact Solar Farm, a $240 million project on 1,900 acres in southeastern Lamar County near Cunningham. Incentives came in the form of a property value limitation agreement under Chapter 313 of the Texas Tax Code and the designation of the farm’s location as a reinvestment zone for potential federal tax credits.

Impact Solar’s expected $240 million appraised tax value will be limited to $20 million on the district’s maintenance and operations side of the property tax rate ($1.04 per $100 valuation) for 10 years, a tax savings of about $12 million. The limitation does not apply to the interest and sinking side of the tax rate (.1295 per $100 valuation), which is allocated for debt payment.

In return, the district will receive about $3 million in hold harmless money from Impact Solar plus yearly payments of $108,900 for 14 years, for a total of about $4.3 million. The first of the yearly payments is expected in October this year. Payments are locked in based on $100 per year per student at the district’s current enrollment of 1,089 students.

Paris Junior College is predicted to receive about $1.357 million in tax revenue over the next 15 years, according to Texas Comptroller projections. In lieu of a tax abatement, Lamar County will receive $1.875 million over a 10-year period in direct payments. Afterwards the company will be taxed at the full county property tax rate.

Samson, Delilah wait in wings

Samson Solar Energy Center, a proposed $350 million to $470 million farm, also near Cunningham and in Prairiland ISD on 6,500 acres, awaits approval with the Texas Comptroller for the district to grant a limited tax agreement with essentially the same type of arrangements with affected taxing entities.

Earlier this month, parent company Invenergy approached Rivercrest ISD in Red River County about the possibility of locating the Delilah Solar Energy Farm in the southwest corner of the county on roughly 3,000 acres with an estimated capital investment between $320 million to $470 million.

Mary Madewell is a staff writer for The Paris News. She can be reached at 903-785-6976 or at mary.madewell@theparisnews.com.

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