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Houston-area solar farm project secures $185M in financing, names engineering firm

The Fort Bend County project is expected to begin construction early next year. Photo by Red Zeppelin/Pexels

A solar project in Fort Bend County has secured funding and an engineering firm this month.

Impact investment firm Advantage Capital has committed to provide a $185 million investment to Sabanci Renewables Inc., a North American subsidiary of Sabanci Holding based in Austin, to complete the financing of its Cutlass Solar II project 40 miles southwest of Houston. Cutlass II is a 272 MWdc utility-scale solar project under construction in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).

The project will be located in Fort Bend County. Advantage Capital’s tax equity investment will provide the external capital for Sabanci to complete the project. Sabanci Renewables will own and operate the facility.

“This investment with Sabanci Renewables perfectly aligns with Advantage Capital’s commitment to funding clean energy projects nationwide and will especially have a positive impact on the community in greater Fort Bend County, Texas,” Tom Bitting, Principal at Advantage Capital, says in a news release. “We are thrilled to be working with Sabanci, a trusted name in the global energy industry, in bringing this project online for the benefit of its stakeholders.”.

Operations for Cutlass II are expected in April 2024. The project includes over 500,000 solar panels situated on over 1,000 acres of land. The solar panels are expected to help provide sustainable electricity to more than 80,000 homes in Texas, help to mitigate energy supply security concerns due to hotter weather, and create jobs.

“We are happy to partner up with Advantage Capital in our first renewable energy project in the U.S. and proud to demonstrate our execution capabilities in such a competitive market under such a challenging environment,” Ismail Bilgin, CEO of Sabanci Renewables, said in a news release.

Virginia-headquartered Bechtel, which has a big presence in Houston, has been selected to build the facility for Sabanci Renewables. Sabanci Renewables will own and operate the facility.

"Bechtel is honored to partner with Sabanci Renewables to support a clean energy future," says Kelley Brown, EPC Operations manager, North America Core Renewables, Bechtel Infrastructure, in another news release. "Bechtel's use of new technology in robotics and digital management will help move Cutlass Solar Two from construction to operations in record time, bringing additional renewable energy generation to Texas."

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A View From HETI

Houston could have ranked higher on a global report of top cities in the world if it had a bit more business diversification. Photo via Getty Images

A new analysis positions the Energy Capital of the World as an economic dynamo, albeit a flawed one.

The recently released Oxford Economics Global Cities Index, which assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the world’s 1,000 largest cities, puts Houston at No. 25.

Houston ranks well for economics (No. 15) and human capital (No. 18), but ranks poorly for governance (No. 184), environment (No. 271), and quality of life (No. 298).

New York City appears at No. 1 on the index, followed by London; San Jose, California; Tokyo; and Paris. Dallas lands at No. 18 and Austin at No. 39.

In its Global Cities Index report, Oxford Economics says Houston’s status as “an international and vertically integrated hub for the oil and gas sector makes it an economic powerhouse. Most aspects of the industry — downstream, midstream, and upstream — are managed from here, including the major fuel refining and petrochemicals sectors.”

“And although the city has notable aerospace and logistics sectors and has diversified into other areas such as biomedical research and tech, its fortunes remain very much tied to oil and gas,” the report adds. “As such, its economic stability and growth lag other leading cities in the index.”

The report points out that Houston ranks highly in the human capital category thanks to the large number of corporate headquarters in the region. The Houston area is home to the headquarters of 26 Fortune 500 companies, including ExxonMobil, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Sysco.

Another contributor to Houston’s human capital ranking, the report says, is the presence of Rice University, the University of Houston and the Texas Medical Center.

“Despite this,” says the report, “it lacks the number of world-leading universities that other cities have, and only performs moderately in terms of the educational attainment of its residents.”

Slower-than-expected population growth and an aging population weaken Houston’s human capital score, the report says.

Meanwhile, Houston’s score for quality is life is hurt by a high level of income inequality, along with a low life expectancy compared with nearly half the 1,000 cities on the list, says the report.

Also in the quality-of-life bucket, the report underscores the region’s variety of arts, cultural, and recreational activities. But that’s offset by urban sprawl, traffic congestion, an underdeveloped public transportation system, decreased air quality, and high carbon emissions.

Furthermore, the report downgrades Houston’s environmental stature due to the risks of hurricanes and flooding.

“Undoubtedly, Houston is a leading business [center] that plays a key role in supporting the U.S. economy,” says the report, “but given its shortcomings in other categories, it will need to follow the path of some of its more well-rounded peers in order to move up in the rankings.”

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This article originally ran on InnovationMap.

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