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Commissioners Court Approves Reinvestment Zone And 381 Agreements For 3 Solar Projects

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Hopkins County Commissioners Court this week, after hearing from at least five Dike property owners regarding issues related to a solar facility to be constructed in that community, tackled four other items on the agenda pertaining to three additional solar farms, including a reinvestment zone, an amendment to one Chapter 381 agreement, and requests for tax incentives for solar facilities proposed for Saltillo and Pine Forest communities.

These proposed solar projects are to be constructed on mostly agricultural exempt land. When they are put into production, that will increase revenue across the county for all taxing entities within the boundaries of which the project is located. A clause in the agreements stipulate they the property while in use for the solar project cannot be granted an agricultural exemption; taxes instead will be figure at fair market, County Judge Robert Newsom, Precinct 3 Commissioner Wade Bartley and Sulphur Springs-Hopkins County Economic Development Director Roger Feagley noted during the Sept. 13 Commissioners Court session.

Saltillo Solar Project

The Commissioners Court conducted first a public hearing to allow any who wished to speak or ask questions an opportunity to do so regarding a request to create a reinvestment zone and a Chapter 381 Economic Development Program agreement Stampede Solar LLC, a project planned for construction in the Saltillo area.

Feagley described a reinvestment zone as “a really benign little thing.”

Stampede Solar project vicinity map submitted along with the application to Saltillo ISD for a tax incentive

“It’s nothing more than a geographical area, and it doesn’t affect anyone’s property values or property taxes or anything like that. We’re just drawing a line, a circle out there that says at some point in the future you can do some sort of tax incentive and that’s all it is. It doesn’t affect anybody around it. Matter of fact, you could make the whole county a reinvestment zone and it wouldn’t change anybody’s anything,” Feagley told the Commissioners Court during their regular meeting Monday, Sept. 13, 2021.

The reinvestment zone, Feagley noted, includes the property of the people who have leased the land, Stampede Solar, and only their property.

“That means if you didn’t lease your property to it, you’re not in the reinvestment zone,” Feagley said. “It lasts for 5 years and then it goes away, unless there’s tax incentive. Then, it will last until the end of the tax incentive.”

A reinvestment zone is needed for the hospital district to be able to consider a request from the developer for a tax incentive. The hospital district does not have the power to create a reinvestment zone, but the Commissioners Court does. Thus, the county officials were asked to consider approving a reinvestment zone for Stampede Solar so that Hopkins County Hospital District can, in the future, consider a request for a tax abatement for Stampede Solar LLC, Feagley explained.

After the public hearing for the reinvestment zone was closed, Precinct 3 Commissioner Wade Bartley made a motion that was seconded by Precinct 1 Commissioner Mickey Barker approving a resolution for the reinvestment zone for Stampeded Solar, LLC. The motion received unanimous approval of the Commissioners Court.

The Commissioners Court then considered Stampede Solar’s the request for a Chapter 381 Economic Development Program agreement, which is projected to include a capital investment of no less than $274.8 million. Stampede Solar has attained rights to use more than 2,800 acres across nine properties owned by four different families in the Saltillo area. The project will be located near County Line Road and FM 900 in the Saltillo area. Per the agreement, the project may include but is not limited to include:

Solar Modules and Panels
• Inverter Boxes
• Meteorological Equipment
• Operation and Maintenance Building
• Electrical Substations
• Associated Towers
• Storage Systems
• Racking and Mounting Structures
• Combiner Boxes
• Foundations
• Roadways, Paving and Fencing
• Generation Transmission Tie Line
• Interconnection Facilities and
• Power Conditioning Equipment.

Per the agreement, developer Enel Green Power North America Inc. agrees to pay all of the taxes owed from the previous year beginning in tax year 2022. The county would then, if the developer meets all conditions of the agreement, reimburse 100 percent of the county ad valorem taxes for tax years 2023-2032.

Zach Precopia, Project Manager for Stampede Solar LLC developer Enel Green Power, and Sulphur Springs Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Roger Feagley

However, Stampede has agreed for tax years 2023-2032 to make a pilot payment annually. Annual amounts for the Pilot program are figured based on a couple of factors, including nameplate capacity, which is the total generating capacity of the improvements on the property in megawatts AC. The first payment is projected to be $429,000 in 2023, and would then be $286,000 each year after through 2032. Pilot payments are due on the Jan. 31, annually, following a year for which the reimbursed ad valorem tax applies. Payment for tax year 2023 is due on Jan. 31, 2024.

The project will provide 5 new full-time equivalent employment positions working on the property. The developer for Stampede Solar project is Enel Green Power North America Inc., with Zach Precopia as project manager.

The developer also, according to the 381 agreement, can terminate the agreement on or before Dec. 31, 2021, for any reason by notifying the county in writing. If the developer defaults, the county can cancel the agreement and recover any economic benefit provided to the developer through the cancelation date.

The developer has already submitted to Saltillo ISD a request for a tax incentive, which was vetted by Texas Comptroller’s Office as meeting requirements for the agreement. The Commissioners Court voted to approved the agreement for Stampede Solar

Pine Forest Solar I

Hopkins County Commissioners Court also agreed to amend the Chapter 381 Economic Development Program agreement with Pine Forest Solar I, LLC. during the Sept. 13, court session.

The agreement, according to Feagley, is essentially the same ast he one previously approved by the Commissioners Court, except the dates are backed up two years.

The Pine Forest Solar I, LLC, project is estimated to be at least a $252 million project which spans across an estimated 1,883 acres of land, across approximately 40 tracts of land owned at least seven different owner families or groups. The project is required to create two full-time equivalent employment positions working on the property for the term of the agreement. Construction of the project is to be completed, per the 381 agreement, by Dec. 31, 2024.

The facility is anticipated to have a total capacity of up to 284.6 MW AC of solar and will feature up to
approximately 995,148 photovoltaic panels, and up to approximately 76 central inverters. It will include but is not limited to include as components:

Map included in the Chapter 381 Economic Development agreements the Commissioners Court approved for Pine Forest Solar I, LLC, and Pine Forest Hybrid I, LLC, on Sept. 13, 2021, located just near FM 269
  • Inverter Boxes
  • Meteorological Equipment
  • Operation and Maintenance Building
  • Electrical Substations
  • Associated Towers
  • Storage Devices
  • Racking and Mounting Structures
  • Combiner Boxes
  • Foundations
  • Roadways, Paving and Fencing
  • Generation Transmission Tie Line
  • Interconnection Facilities
  • Power Conditioning Equipment
  • Solar Modules and Panels

Developer Telios, headed by Shannon McCall, agreed to pay all county ad valorem taxes for the property by Jan. 31 of each tax year, beginning in tax year 2024 through 2033. If all terms of the agreement are met, the county will then reimburse those 100 percent of those payments for 10 years.

Beginning in tax year 2024, and each year after through tax year 2033, the developer agrees to provide a compliance verification certifying the job requirement is fulfilled, including IRS 941 returns or Texas Workforce Commission Employer Quarterly Reports, the taxable appraised value of the property and personalty on the property for that tax year.

The developer also agrees to annually pay a pilot payment, based on a formula involving nameplate capacity and megawatt AC and paid to the county by Jan. 31 of each calendar year for the 10 years of the agreement. The first payment is anticipated to be $514,320.58, higher because it includes additional funding for road repairs and maintenance due to the use of the county roads to haul in the solar panels and other construction materials. Payments each year after, starting in 2025 and continuing through 2033 are projected to be $342,880.39, according to the amended agreement approved by the court on Sept. 13, 2021.

Pine Forest Hybrid I, LLC

The Commissioners Court too approved a Chapter 381 ED Program agreement for Pine Forest Hybrid I, LLC. Essentially, Feagley explained, this agreement mirrored the Pine Forest Solar I, LLC, agreement. The developer decided to add at least $150 million worth of batteries to the $252 million Pine Forest solar farm project.

The energy storage facility would employ two new full-time equivalent employment positions working on the property. The project is to be completed by Dec. 31, 2023, at which time the two employees would begin work.

The facility is anticipated to have a total capacity of up to 285.0 MW AC of Storage. and will include but is not limited to having as components:

Battery storage of energy
• Inverter Boxes
• Electrical Substations
• Associated Towers
• Combiner Boxes
• Foundations
• Roadways, Paving and Fencing
• Generation Transmission Tie Line
• Interconnection Facilities and
• Power Conditioning Equipment.

Sulphur Springs-Hopkins County Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Roger Feagley discusses the Pine Forest Solar I, LLC< and Pine Forest Hybrid I, LLC, projects during the Sept. 13, 2021, Commissioners Court meeting.

As is the case for the other 381 agreements approved Monday for solar projects, all county ad valorem taxes must be paid in full by Jan. 31 of each year starting in 2023 and continuing through 2032. Once required documentation is provided annually showing the solar business has met all terms of the agreement, the county ad valorem payment would be reimbursed for 10 years, starting with tax year 2023 and ending with tax year 2032.

A pilot payment also will be made for the solar storage project annually during the 10-years of the 381 agreement, based on a formula that factors in overall nameplate capacity and 285-megawatt AC. The first payment for the Telios solar storage project is expected to be $306,141.30, the annual payment in each of the nine following years is projected to be $204,094.20, according to the agreement.

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Author: Faith Huffman

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