Proposed $210M wind farm in La Joya ISD gains steam

LA JOYA — The La Joya ISD Board of Trustees voted at a meeting Wednesday to adopt an agreement for an appraised value limitation application submitted by a company proposing to build a $210 million wind farm in the district.

Under Chapter 313 of the Texas tax code, companies can request a 10-year tax abatement within reinvestment zones. The abatement is intended to attract industry to the state and create jobs.

The wind farm which La Joya Windpower and Terra-Gen Development Company are planning to create in the district will have an estimated capacity of 210 megawatts, produced by a proposed 93 wind turbines, according to documents filed with the Texas Comptroller’s office.

La Joya ISD will be the home of 86 of those turbines, while seven will be located in the Edinburg CISD. The company did not apply for an appraised value limitation with ECISD.

La Joya ISD is by no means the only Valley district to have been approached by wind farms seeking the appraised value limitation: upward of 20 similar applications have been filed with area school districts in the last few years.

The estimated M&O (maintenance and operations) levy for the project, without any limit over 15 years, would be $24.7 million; with the limitation it would be $9.9 million over the same time, according to documents filed with the comptroller’s office.

Kevin O’Hanlon with law firm O’Hanlon, Demerath and Castillo, the district’s consultant, spoke at the meeting.

“We highly recommend your consideration and adoption of this,” O’Hanlon said.

The board also approved a waiver of job creation requirements requested by La Joya Windfarms. The project is only expected to create six permanent, qualifying jobs in the district.

“These are not super labor intensive; they are when you’re building them, not when you’re operating them,” O’Hanlon said.

According to the project’s application submitted in 2019, construction is expected to begin early this year and it will begin hiring and operating late in 2020.

“In addition to the wind turbine generating units, there will be the supporting electrical collection system and roads to be constructed and improved as necessary, as well as a collection substation to permit the interconnection and transmission of electricity generated by the wind turbines, and an operations and maintenance building constructed within the project’s boundary,” the application stated.

Construction of the wind farm is expected to take a year.

“La Joya Windpower LLC was formed for the express purpose of developing a community sponsored wind farm that would help bring significant economic development to an area that is historically economically distrissed [sic],” the application read. “While the wind regime for La Joya Windpower is very good, there are many favorable locations for wind projects that could be developed across the United States. La Joya Windpower has modeled its economics with an expectation that having a Limitation of Appraised Value Agreement with La Joya ISD is a key and invaluable portion of the project.”

The application says that the project is evaluating other locations in Texas, California, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Colorado, Wyoming and Nevada

“Should the Appraised Value Limitation be granted, La Joya Windpower has created a development and investment plan that is capitalized to implement the project. Without such a limitation the project, competing against other Texas projects that have qualified, would likely be forced to redeploy its assets and capital to other states competing for similar wind projects,” the application stated.

Despite the threat of relocating elsewhere, the developers have already entered into agreements, contracts or letters of intent related to the project. They have completed avian studies, environmental studies, federal aviation studies and paid a $75,000 fee for applying for the appraised value limitation.

No one spoke at a public hearing before the vote.