Billion dollar new project will create 400 jobs in suburban Austin

Tesla is not the only driver of high-level economic development activity in the Austin metropolitan area.

Southern California-based Chem-Energy Corp., whose specialties include petroleum products, on November 10 announced plans to invest more than $ 1 billion in building a solar energy storage plant. and a battery energy storage facility in Caldwell County.

The solar power plant will be on a 3,518-acre site at Caldwell Valley Ranch, outside of Uhland. Uhland, which is located in Caldwell and Hays counties, is a small town 12 miles northeast of San Marcos. Construction of the solar power plant is expected to begin in spring 2022 and be completed the following year.

Once the Uhland installation is complete, work will begin on the battery-operated power plant near Martindale, a small town in Caldwell County seven miles southeast of San Marcos. The surface area of ​​this site was not available.

Uhland and Martindale are located in an anchored region in San Marcos known as the Texas Innovation Corridor.

“Caldwell County is the perfect strategic choice for our flagship Texas operations,” said Robert Hayward, chief operating officer of Chem-Energy, in a press release. “With land available in a growing region, close to Texas State University and a strong workforce, the Texas Innovation Corridor provides an ideal environment for growth. of our organization. “

The press release says more Chem-Energy facilities are planned “soon” for central Texas.

The solar and battery-powered plants will primarily serve the Taylor-based Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages most of the state’s electricity grid. Other factory customers will include the Austin-based Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) and the Bastrop-based Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative.

The facilities will produce 400 permanent full-time jobs in the first year, with an average annual salary of at least $ 53,200. Recruitment is expected to begin in January.

In partnership with the Hays County campus of Austin Community College in Kyle, the Martindale facility will house the nation’s first comprehensive solar and battery storage training center. The center will train technicians in Chemistry-Energy.

“Between the well-paying jobs, the facilities for training the incoming workforce, and the fact that our region becomes a future resource for the state’s electricity grid, this will undoubtedly improve the quality of life for residents of the Texas Innovation Corridor, ”said Jason Giulietti, president of the Greater San Marcos Partnership, which promotes economic development in the San Marcos area.

Caldwell County has signed a $ 22.4 million tax incentive program for the two facilities.

“This is a seismic development for our area that will create several new opportunities in our community,” Caldwell County Judge Hoppy Haden said.

Population growth has been less robust in Caldwell County than in the other four counties in the metropolitan area of ​​Austin. Still, Caldwell County recorded a 20.5% population increase from 2010 to 2020, according to the US Census Bureau.

Along with the increase in population, Caldwell County has seen rising house prices. In September, the county’s median home price climbed 19.6% to $ 259,000 from the same month a year earlier, according to the Austin Board of Realtors. Caldwell County is the only metropolitan county where the median home price remains below $ 300,000.

Of course, the Chem-Energy projects could trigger a spike in Caldwell County home prices.

The projects near Uhland and Martindale are the latest in a wave of economic activity unfolding east of I-35 in the Austin area. Most notably, Tesla is about to complete a $ 1.1 billion auto manufacturing plant in Travis County east of the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Meanwhile, Samsung is considering the town of Taylor in Williamson County for a $ 17 billion chip factory.

About Perry Perrie

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