HOUSTON — A new farm is being built west of Houston in East Bernard. But this farm won't be growing corn and soybeans.
This farm will be producing energy.
What will be the state's second-largest solar farm will be spread over 1,500 acres in rural Fort Bend County. The ultimate goal for Spanish company Acciona Energy is to have 590,000 solar panels to power the 317-megawatt plant.
Mel Besser, the deputy director of construction, said solar farms are growing in popularity, largely because of lower costs.
It's currently more attractive because the price of competing natural gas has soared.
“In the last 20 years, the solar panel prices came down about 90%. From $5 per watt level to less than 50 cents right now,” Besser said.
The lower costs of solar farms have piqued interest in companies like Google and Amazon who also rely on renewable energy to improve their social and carbon profiles.
“There is definitely a global change from fossil fuel to renewable energy that definitely plays an important role," Besser said.
And of course, there are tax breaks.
The new Inflation Reduction Act means a production tax credit of up to 2.75 cents per kilowatt hour and an investment tax credit of up to 30%.
Meanwhile, Texas gives a 100% property tax exemption on solar devices.
“The state of Texas ranks number 1 in renewable energy and number two in solar," Bessar said.
This new solar farm will need about 400 employees to build at peak construction, but only a dozen people are needed to actually operate the facility once it's online.
It's expected to produce 600 gigawatts a year, funneling energy into the Texas Power Grid and powering up to 50,000 homes a year. If construction goes as planned, the plant will start producing power in the Houston area by the end of the year and be fully online by next June.