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FAQ + Resources

Old Jackson Solar

General

Pattern Development, based out of Houston, is a leader in the development of renewable energy and transmission projects. With a long history in wind and solar energy, the team at Pattern Development has developed, financed and placed into operation more than 5,500 MW of renewable energy projects, including more than 1,500 MW in Texas. The company has a strong commitment to promoting environmental stewardship and a dedication to working closely with landowners and communities.

 

Pattern Development recently acquired the project development rights with the express goal of concluding the development process and then financing and the construction of the project.

Texas has a growing need for electric generation as older power plants shut down. Over the past five years, solar power has become one of the cheapest forms of electricity. In particular, it’s a great new source of power for Texas because it generates the most electricity during hot summer days of corresponding peak electricity usage and therefore helps reduce price spikes for energy consumers. According to ERCOT, Texas has installed more than 1,484 MW of solar with plans to install an additional 3,700 MW of solar capacity by 2021. This solar project will also benefit the community by generating significant new jobs and significant taxes for Van Zandt County.

North Texas, in particular, has a growing need for electric generation as the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex and the areas surrounding are growing very quickly. Locating projects far away from the electric need increases the price of electricity because new transmission lines need to be built to bring power where it is needed. This particular site was chosen because of its unique characteristics of being relatively flat, sunny, and close to transmission infrastructure to connect to the grid.

The electricity is expected to be fed into the Oncor transmission system. The Oncor electricity service area includes most of Van Zandt County. However, new electricity generation in North Texas serves both Oncor and other North Texas utilities. Additionally, the solar project will offset coal generating facilities that have recently closed in Northeast Texas and provide an alternative low-cost electricity choice to businesses and utilities in order to keep the cost of electricity low for their customers.

The project is receiving no local or state tax abatements, no government grants, and no other checks from the taxpayers. The project is funded with 100% private capital. Like nearly all infrastructure in the US (including oil and gas), the project owner will receive a federal tax credit for a portion of the project value. For solar, this is called the Investment Tax Credit.

Solar projects typically operate for 30 to 40 years. Upon expiration of the leases, the facilities still maintain a high-salvage value, which is larger than the cost of removing them, thus incentivizing owners to remove the solar panels and steel piles.

Pattern has been in business for a long time so we don’t expect a bankruptcy. However, bankruptcy will not affect the operations of the Old Jackson project. The commitments of the project would survive bankruptcy and the project will continue generating power.

A typical solar project is designed to withstand weak hurricanes and storm events that create strong wind, rain, and hail. A direct hit by a tornado would likely severely damage a solar farm just as it would most other man-made structures. If a tornado damaged the solar farm, the project would respond swiftly to ensure the public is not at risk.

The National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) has conducted several reputable studies which demonstrated that the noise levels generated by inverters and tracking motors are not audible above ambient noise at the fence line of the facility. Solar panels themselves are 100% silent.

Of all the forms of energy generation projects, solar projects have some of the lowest impacts to property. Because of this low impact, unlike studies on coal and gas plants, or wind farms, fewer studies have been done on solar farm impacts to land values. However, the studies that have been performed on wind projects have concluded that impacts of wind projects on neighboring property values are low to negligible.

 

Furthermore, a recent survey of appraisers found that a solar farm located within 100 feet from a residence might cause a decline in property value of approximately 5% due to visual impacts but the impacts, if any, would dissipate the further the residence is located from the solar farm. In addition, visual screening mitigation can be employed to reduce the visual impacts that property owners might be concerned about.

 

We do not think that property values will be significantly negatively impacted in this project as we are reviewing options to set back panels from residences and are working to minimize the visual impact of the project for property owners adjacent to the site.

Project & Construction Specifics

The project is envisioned to be 127.5 MW, utilizing ~765 acres of leased private pasture property in Van Zandt County. The project will generate clean and renewable electricity equal to the needs of approximately 27,000 homes each year.

Of the approximately 230 acres of trees on the site, we expect about 180 will be maintained and 50 acres will be cleared. One of the things that makes the Old Jackson site attractive is the topography of the land. Its gentle rolling slopes are suitable for solar projects and means that very little grading will be needed. In fact, for the entire 765-acre project, we expect less than five acres will be graded. Timber from cleared trees will be chipped and spread on site.

We expect to use between 50,000 and 60,000 posts/piles and between 370,000 – 450,000 panels. We are finalizing the design of the project so the range reflects the different panel outputs we may use and a range of the final project size.

This project will create many benefits for Van Zandt County including:

» Up to 250 construction jobs over a one-year time period

» Millions of dollars in new tax revenue for Van Zandt County and the Canton School District

» Steady lease income for private property owners

» Hiring of local contractors and use of local services such as hotels, restaurants, and gas stations

» Clean and renewable energy with zero emissions, generated by one of the cheapest forms of electricity: solar

Pattern Development encourages contractors to hire locally to the greatest extent possible. We also support communities through sponsorships of local causes. Pattern plans to work with groups such as 4-H, Canton Youth Recreational Association, and other local community organizations. If you have suggestions on other ways to engage community members and support local initiatives, please let us know!

Pattern Development will oversee the construction of the project via contracting with a reputable and experienced construction firm. There are a number of major solar Engineering Procurement and Construction contractors (EPC) already active in Texas. Pattern has managed construction firms on over 4,500 MW of wind and solar projects over the last decade including almost 1,500 MWs of wind projects in Texas alone representing total capital investments of more than $1 billion. Pattern Energy will have a Construction Manager assigned to the project who will be the direct representative and point of contact for all concerned landowners. The Construction Manager is frequently onsite, though not necessarily every day of construction.

Pattern Development and our contractors take our commitments to the local communities in which we build our projects very seriously and we actively take measures to encourage our team to engage with local vendors and job seekers early on. The primary avenues for engaging with the Pattern Development team about vendor submission and full-time employment will be through the Engineering and Construction company that we select to build the project, as well as the local vendor fairs that will be hosted this spring, likely in April and May.

During construction, the solar project is expected to need up to 250 workers. During operation, approximately two to four full-time employees will be needed with a potential for additional seasonal employment as well. A significant number of other jobs will be created both during and after construction through indirect economic activities such as lodging, food, and local vendor services, etc.

The General Contractor will mobilize on site to first commence civil work in preparing the site (clearing brush, some tree clearing, minimal grading, and surveying and staking). Several weeks into the civil phase, they will commence driving piles for the solar tracking system. About a month into the pile driving phase, they will commence installing the tracking system. Once a sufficient amount of tracking is installed, they will commence solar panel deliveries and mounting. During this phase, the contractor will also be trenching the electrical systems throughout the PV array, leading back to the project substation. Once all of those phases are complete and the modules are electrically connected, about two months of testing will take place where proper operation is verified and the system is brought online electrically in phases and quality control check performed. Once all tests are complete and signed off by required parties, the system will be operational and begin supplying clean, renewable energy to the local grid.

 

Overall the construction of the project is expected to take approximately 12 months.

Yes. The project will pay local, state, and federal taxes. The project is not requesting any tax abatements from Van Zandt County or Canton ISD. Based on the current project size, over the project life, we expect Canto ISD to receive approximately $22 million dollars, Van Zandt County to receive approximately $9 million, and the state of Texas over $5 million in state franchise taxes over its first 35 years of operations.

Whether solar, wind, gas, coal, or any other form of power generation, a profit is necessary to attract the necessary investment capital and this project is no exception. Having said that, solar projects similar to Van Zandt Solar are popping up all over Texas and local Van Zandt residents will benefit from having a significant new source of economic activity in the community including a significant addition to the local tax base.

Any damage caused to county roads that result from construction of the Project will be repaired by the Project. To back that promise up, Pattern plans to post a bond to ensure any damage is fixed.

 

Generally, before construction begins, the contractor and the county will record the condition of the road and after construction, both parties will inspect the roads for any damage which occurred during construction. The contractor is responsible for the repair of any damage caused by the project during construction. The county maintains the construction bond in the event that the contractor refuses to make repairs.

No. The project is 100% on privately-owned land.

We do not anticipate the county seeing any additional costs as a result of the project. On the contrary! The project will generate millions of dollars in new property tax revenue for the County and School District. The project will pay property taxes for its entire useful life, expected to be 35 to 40 years.

Environmental & Aesthetic

Solar panels are typically mounted about four feet off the ground and have a maximum height of approximately seven feet, will be setback from roads and residences, and utilize non-reflecting glass. So, although the project may be visible from adjacent and nearby roads, the overall visual impact will be minimized.

Field studies by biologists have indicated the site does not include critical habitat for threatened or endangered species, including bald eagles, whooping crane, American or Arctic peregrine falcons, black bear, or wood stork.

 

Project construction will avoid streams and forested wetlands and therefore avoid impacts to aquatic species. In addition, the project will maintain the topsoil of the existing pastures to the maximum extent. Many species of pasture plants will be allowed to repropagate after construction. Large brushy plants that will grow in absence of cattle grazing will need to be managed. Finally, prior to project construction and operations of the facility, all personnel will receive Environmental Awareness Training to make them aware of any potential environmental issues that might arise during the construction and operation of the facility.

No. Solar projects do not produce any harmful byproducts or runoff. Solar modules and inverters properly maintained do not discharge chemicals or toxic materials into the soil, air, or water. Properly maintaining the onsite equipment is standard and an important aspect of the long-term management of a solar facility. Any defective equipment would be quickly replaced and taken off-site.

The Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer underlies the project area. Public water well data shows water levels between 80 – 100 feet below ground surface, in active water wells in the project area. Pilings will be driven to a maximum depth of 15 feet to support the panels. Soils surrounding the pilings are vertically separated from the aquifer by shale deposits. The pilings will not impact the aquifer or groundwater flows in the project area.

 

Cedar Creek Reservoir is approximately 10 miles from the project site. Stormwater features will be incorporated into site design that will slow stormwater runoff. Also, as much existing vegetation as possible will be left undisturbed on the site. This will help to prevent erosion and to filter sediment. The project will not impact Cedar Creek Reservoir.

The solar project poses a very low risk to birds. Recent media attention has focused on heat-related bird deaths at some generating facilities, which are related to older solar technologies such as concentrating solar, rather than solar photovoltaic (PV Panels) which will be used here.

One of the great things about North Texas is the ample amount of rainfall that the area receives. Rain is actually a wonderful solar panel cleaner. So because of this, the project does not anticipate needing to wash the solar panels often, if ever, and the water usage of the project will be small, mostly for dust control during construction.

There will be motion-induced lighting (with security cameras) along the project perimeter fence at strategic locations for security purposes. These lights will normally be off. There will also be low-level ground lighting within the project substation and utility switchyard, which will only be on during abnormal periods of operations or maintenance at night. These lights will also normally be off. There will be low-level lights at the perimeter of the project substation control building and utility switchyard entrance that will normally be on for security purposes.

The solar project site will not be graded and topsoil removal will be avoided to the maximum extent possible. Therefore, the major impact to the land is the actual installation of the racking for the solar modules.

 

The EPC contractor utilizes a special technology where steel piles are driven into the ground without any concrete foundation and with minimal force or impact — similar to piles that used for building a steel fence. Upon expiration of the lease term, the piles are pulled out and Pattern Development is required to restore the land to its original condition. Depending on the weather during construction, timber mats might be needed to avoid vehicles getting stuck in the mud or otherwise rutting the soil after a rain event. After construction, the timber mats, if needed, will be removed and areas impacted will be smoothed and reseeded.

No. The pile foundational installation affects only the top approximately 10 feet of soils and will not cause any extreme vibrations in most soil types in North Texas. Therefore, damage to home foundations, water wells, undergrounding piping, or other improvements is extremely unlikely. Pattern Development and its contractor will work with nearby homeowners to mitigate disruption during construction activities such as pile installation.

The fences are traditional chain-link design, minimum of six foot, and are not meant to allow fauna larger than a squirrel to pass.

Technology, Materials, & Safety

At a basic level, solar panels include glass, metal, solar cells, glue, and an electrical junction box. If you are interested in the detailed composition, we can provide more details from module manufacturers.

Solar panels are durable and designed to last for 35 to 40 years. However, from time to time, panels may crack or stop working. Because the project depends on the electricity each panel produces, broken panels will be replaced in very short order.

Concrete will be used at the project substation, to be used as an equipment pad for the main transformer and as the foundation for the substation control building. The PV array site will not contain any concrete.

We expect to use industry-standard piles that are six inches by nine inches. Piles will be driven anywhere between eight and 15 feet for the PV system, depending on location within the array. Average pile depth is anticipated at 10 feet. Other electrical equipment such as substations and inverters will use industry-standard practices.

A stormwater pollution prevention plan (SWPPP) will be developed by the general contractor and verified by Pattern. The SWPPP is under development and not available at this time. A Notice of Intent for stormwater coverage will be submitted to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality prior to construction.

Operations and maintenance crews will use industry-acceptable and EPA-approved chemicals, along with periodic mowing, to keep the level of vegetation under control. Vegetation under the solar panels provides good root systems to prevent erosion issues and is encouraged to grow. However, the height needs to be kept under two feet to prevent shading of the solar panels.

All electrical and electronic devices create electromagnetic fields, but the amount emitted by a solar project to the public is less than a typical household fixture. For example, typical household fixtures, such as a fluorescent lightbulb can generate about 50 V/m at a distance of one foot. At a distance of one inch from the power cord for an operating personal computer, 40 V/m are detected. A study conducted by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center at three utility-scale sites revealed that electric field levels along the fenced PV array boundary, and at locations set back 50 to 150 feet from the boundary, were not elevated above background levels (< 5 V/m). Electric fields near the inverters were also not elevated above background levels (< 5 V/m).