Georgetown council authorizes default notice on 2015 solar agreement

The Buckthorn solar plant, located in Pecos County in West Texas, began sending solar-generated power to Georgetown in summer 2018.

The Buckthorn solar plant, located in Pecos County in West Texas, began sending solar-generated power to Georgetown in summer 2018.

Georgetown City Council has authorized Mayor Dale Ross to sign a “notice of event of default” on a solar power agreement the city entered more than four years ago with Buckthorn Westex LLC, a subsidiary of Clearway Energy, the owner of the Buckthorn solar plant in West Texas.

The council unanimously approved the authorization March 26 following an executive session, which is a proceeding closed to the public and news media. Council members did not discuss the matter in open session, and city officials have declined further comment, citing advice from city attorneys.

Like other governmental bodies subject to the Texas Open Meetings Act, the Georgetown council is allowed to meet in a closed session to discuss certain matters, including contract negotiations, personnel issues and real estate purchases. Any vote or official action resulting from a closed-session discussion must be made during an open meeting, according to the law.

The language of the council’s motion, as read by Council Member and Mayor Pro Tem John Hesser, stated: “Motion to authorize the mayor to sign a notice of event of default of the solar project power agreement entered into Feb. 24, 2015, with Buckthorn Westex as discussed in executive session.”

Notices of default are legal documents that generally claim one or more parties subject to a contract have failed to perform a contractual obligation.

Georgetown entered a 25-year, 150 megawatt-hour-capacity contract with the Buckthorn plant prior to the start of the plant’s operation in summer 2018.

City officials said last December they would try to renegotiate the solar contract as well as a 20-year, 144 megawatt-hour-capacity contract with EDF Renewable Energy’s Spinning Spur 3 wind farm, which is located near Amarillo, due to high costs associated with the deals.

The city’s projected energy costs between 2016 and 2018 were a combined $26 million lower than what was actually needed for Georgetown to meet its energy contract obligations and provide electric service to customers. That total includes a recent shortfall of $6.84 million for fiscal year 2017-18.


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