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Austin Energy to build facility

April 19,2008

Austin American Statesman

Texas' largest solar power array has a place to touch down.

Austin Energy announced Friday that it had signed a lease agreement to build a solar array on state land in West Texas.

Under the agreement, Austin will pay the General Land Office $10 an acre for 438 acres in Reeves County. Austin Energy has four years to get the solar array, which could cost as much as $300 million, in the ground, according to Michael McCluskey, a deputy general manager for Austin Energy. After that, the agency will take a $1,000 cut for every megawatt of solar plant capacity, much like an oil or gas royalty. Austin City Council set aside about $1 million for the 50-year lease agreement in January 2007.

The land is "not generating a lot of revenue,"" Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said. ""It's not suitable for grazing, and there's no mineral production. It's underused state land".

Austin Energy says the array will have 25-megawatt capacity, at most, on the tract.

The solar power facility will be huge by Texas standards there's currently only six megawatts installed capacity in the entire state but only a fraction of Austin's energy consumption: Austin Energy operates an approximately 3,000-megawatt system.

"It's another step in the long march of renewables," Mayor Will Wynn said. "We have a remarkable, untapped source in the sun."

McCluskey said the solar facility will have no fuel costs and little maintenance costs and emit no pollution. The solar array, which will send its power into the statewide electric grid, could power 75,000 homes.

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