More high-profile economic development activity will energize the Austin and San Antonio metro areas.
Southern California-based Chem-Energy Corp., whose specialties include petroleum products, unveiled plans November 10 to invest more than $1 billion to build a solar power storage plant and a battery power storage plant in Caldwell County.
The solar power plant will be on a 3,518-acre site at Caldwell Valley Ranch, outside Uhland. Uhland, which sits in Caldwell and Hays counties, is a small town 12 miles northeast of San Marcos. Construction on the solar plant is set to start in the spring of 2022 and be completed the following year.
Once the Uhland facility is finished, work will start on the battery power plant near Martindale, a small Caldwell County town seven miles southeast of San Marcos. The acreage of that site wasn’t available.
Uhland and Martindale are situated in a San Marcos-anchored region known as the Texas Innovation Corridor.
“Caldwell County is the perfect strategic choice for our flagship operations in Texas,” Robert Hayward, chief operating officer of Chem-Energy, says in a news release. “With available land in a growing region, close proximity to Texas State University, and a robust workforce pipeline, the Texas Innovation Corridor provides an ideal environment for our organization’s growth.”
The news release indicates that other Chem-Energy facilities are planned “soon” for Central Texas.
The solar and battery power plants will primarily serve the Taylor-based Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which runs most of the state’s power grid. Other customers of the plants will include the Austin-based Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) and the Bastrop-based Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative.
The facilities will produce 400 full-time permanent jobs in the first year, with average annual pay of at least $53,200. Hiring is expected to start in January.
In partnership with the Hays County campus of Austin Community College in Kyle, the Martindale facility will be home to the country’s first comprehensive solar and battery storage training center. The center will train Chem-Energy technicians.
“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,” says Jason Giulietti, president of the Greater San Marcos Partnership, which promotes economic development in the San Marcos area.
Caldwell County has signed off on a $22.4 million tax incentive package for the two facilities.
“This is a seismic development for our region which will establish several new opportunities in our community,” Caldwell County Judge Hoppy Haden says.
The projects near Uhland and Martindale are the latest in a wave of economic activity happening in Central Texas. Most notably, Tesla is nearing completion in Travis County of a $1.1 billion auto manufacturing plant east of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Meanwhile, Samsung is eyeing the Williamson County city of Taylor for a $17 billion chipmaking factory.