Armadillo Solar Center, owned by global energy company Orsted Onshore North America LLC, plans to construct a 200 megawatt solar farm across 2,300 acres about a mile north of Mildred High School on Hwy. 287.
The Navarro County Commissioners Court unanimously approved the creation of the Armadillo Solar Center Reinvestment Zone in June. The reinvestment zone includes connected properties under lease from six property owners within the Mildred Independent School District.
The public hearing in Commissioners Court marked the second step in a three-step process for related tax abatements, allowing for Mildred ISD to apply for an appraised value limitation agreement, which was unanimously approved by its board of trustees in September.
According to its website, Armadillo Solar Center will use over 600,000 solar panels to generate more than 440,000 megawatt hours of energy annually, or enough energy to power almost 42,500 homes.
The Armadillo Solar Center is designed to help meet the energy needs of the state by providing solar-powered electricity and a significant economic boost to the local community over the life of the project, including tens of millions in royalty payments to project landowners and new property tax revenue that benefits the Mildred ISD, Navarro County, Navarro College, and other taxing entities.
Matthew Crosby, Director of Policy and Regulatory Affairs for Orsted Onshore, said the project is still in its early stages, but progressing nicely.
According to Crosby, construction of the solar farm is on track to begin in 2022, with energy production expected to go online the following year.
During construction, the company plans to employ 200 to 300 workers, promoting job creation and hiring locally whenever possible, while continuing to generate indirect tax benefits throughout the area.
The company also plans to provide educational programs to local school districts and community colleges and is seeking opportunities to support STEM education at Mildred ISD and introduce wind and solar technician training programs with Navarro College.
“We are very excited to be in the state, developing in Navarro County,” he said. “We're very grateful to Mildred ISD.”
Orsted Onshore is a Danish-owned company with roots in Texas and established on and off shore wind farms at an investment of $2 billion.
“Solar is new to Navarro County, but it’s mature technology,” Crosby said. “We’re confident we can operate a safe and reliable product.”
Durable, utility scale solar farms like the Armadillo Solar Center are a high production method which makes use of the land, while creating minimal environmental impact. Crosby said the project is a highly productive use of the land that can preserve the underlying soil for future generations.
“We build facilities knowing it's a long-term project,” he said of the 20 to 30-year life of the project.
Crosby said these projects provide a financial stability unique to renewable energy, which a recent study conducted by the University of Texas predicts will increase greatly with the construction of more facilities like the one planned for Navarro County.
“It's about making a lot of productive value out of the land,” he said.
John Boswell, Economic Development Director for Corsicana and Navarro County, said cooperation between developers, local government and school districts, as well as available real estate, and close proximity to metropolitan areas, make Navarro County a viable location for large-scale clean energy production ventures like the Armadillo Solar Center, Clean Vision Solar and Pisgah Ridge projects in what is quickly becoming a competitive marketplace in Texas.
“It's a good thing to have them here because the tax payers are winning,” Boswell said. “These projects expand the tax base without expanding the cost of services.”
As planning for the project progresses, representatives will meet with County Commissioners and the Navarro College board of trustees next month to negotiate a PILOT agreement, a payment in lieu of tax, which would provide the taxing entities with a fixed payment per megawatt.
The PILOT agreement is similar to what has been done for other projects in the area with the total tax benefit projected at more than $20 million over the 20-year period to the school district, county, and college, in addition to landowner payments.
In the meantime, Crosby said the company continues its standard practice of engaging with community organizations, recently making a donation to Compassion Corsicana and joining the Corsicana-Navarro County Chamber of Commerce.
The company is also working with local officials, including area fire departments and first responders, to review the facility's construction plan and discuss the project and technology.
“Community input is important,” Crosby said.
He encouraged residents interested in learning more about Armadillo Solar Center to reach out to developers through the company's website, armadillosolarcenter.com.