John Huffaker
Vice President of Commercial Operations
OCI Solar Power
View from the Top

Solar Shines Light on Local Jobs

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 15:53

The solar industry is more than just a source of energy. It is an employment generator. While the sector in Mexico is developing, countries that are further along, like the US, offer a good example of what is possible. From state to state, the adoption of solar and other renewable energies in the US is creating jobs. California heads the list of Top 10 solar states, with 75,598 jobs at the end of December 2015, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). It also leads on the amount of cumulative solar electric capacity installed. Coming in at number six is Texas, with 7,030 industry-related jobs.

Companies behind the numbers in the Lone Star state, such as OCI Solar Power (OCISP), say the economic factor is a key to success that can be emulated in Mexico. “OCISP views solar projects from a regional perspective and considers economic development and local job creation as an integral part of our projects,” says John Huffaker, Vice President of Commercial Operations at the San Antonio-based company, which was involved in Los Santos I, a 13.5MW solar park located in Moctezuma, Chihuahua.

“In San Antonio, Texas, we have a PPA with CPS Energy, the city’s municipal electric utility, to develop and construct 450MW of solar capacity as part of an economic development and job creation program known as the New Energy Economy (NEE),” Huffaker says. NEE’s consortium, including Mission Solar Energy, Sun Action Trackers, KACO inverters and Mortenson Construction, also collaborates with other project developers, financial agencies and service providers, all from Texas. “The consortium employs over 800 people in the San Antonio area and 800 more in other regions of Texas, meaning that 1,600 jobs were created as a result of the CPS and OCISP agreement,” Huffaker says. Texas has the 10th largest installed solar capacity in the US. The state installed 181MW of new solar capacity in 2015 to surpass 534MW, enough to power around 57,000 homes, according to SEIA. OCI Solar Power already has had a taste of success in Mexico with the Los Santos I. The project was developed in collaboration with Buenavista Renewables, which designed the financial model. It includes a 20-year PPA with La Salle University and Leoni Cable, making it the first utility-scale solar park to secure a long-term PPA with private off-takers.

According to the North American Development Bank, which helped finance the park, Los Santos I generated around 50 and 60 local direct jobs during its construction phase and between five and 10 permanent jobs during the O&M stages, most of which went to people from the surrounding communities, an important element for OCISP. “Our goal is to build a long-term relationship with the community, which differentiates us from other solar power companies,” says Huffaker. “We are looking forward to replicating our San Antonio model in Mexico.”