More than 2,000 workers will be needed during the construction phase of Summit Power’s Texas Clean Energy Project. With a housing shortage already under way due to the area’s booming oil economy, finding a place to live may be tough for workers.
The $2.2 to $2.5 billion Texas Clean Energy Project is to be located in Penwell, and during construction is set to create more than 2,000 jobs. Once completed, there will be 150 permanent jobs.
Finding housing may be difficult for the temporary workers because apartments and even hotels are already in short supply in Odessa and Midland.
“It is the best of times, and could be the worst of times,” said Guy Andrews, Odessa’s economic development director.
The 400-megawatt plant is designed to capture 90 percent of the carbon dioxide it produces. Summit plans to sell the CO2 for enhanced oil-recovery, which will help companies bring more oil out of the ground.
Officials with the Odessa Chamber of Commerce presented a report at the Odessa Development Corp. meeting several weeks ago indicating 97 percent of Odessa’s apartment units are occupied. Out of 86 complexes city-wide, 78 participated in the survey conducted in June. Of the 8,863 apartments available, 8,535 were occupied. Average rent for a two-bedroom apartment has gone up 57 percent since September 2005, from $466 per month, to $733 in July 2011.
Meanwhile, developers are paying attention. There are several apartment complexes going up and more to come, Andrews said. Plus, there are two single family housing developments going in.
“We have seen some interest from people wanting to build hotels,” Andrews said. “I think you are going to see some RV parks going in.”
“I think you are starting to see response from the private sector as a result of the businesses now coming to town,” Andrews said. “The economy is booming and the private sector has to adapt to determine if they want to meet those needs.”
The suggestion was made to go to Summit Power representatives to see if they could provide some type of housing for the temporary construction workers, expected to flood the Permian Basin once Summit breaks ground on the project, possibly as soon as December.
“I have heard the contractors have considered setting up a ‘camp,’ or some other type of temporary housing,” said Chris Kirksey, project manager for Summit Power. “I know that they are exploring their options right now.”
The housing market is tight in Midland as well.
“Our housing market is adjusting,” said Mike Hatley, president of the Midland Development Corp. “Unfortunately, you don’t flip a switch and get 1,000 new homes. We have a lot of housing going on, but it’s going to take time for the market to adjust.
“I believe there are several apartment developers looking at Midland right now,” Hatley continued. “We think there is still a heck of a market for apartments.”
Other area communities are gearing up for an influx of construction workers. Over the past year, Monahans has added about 30 homes to the tax rolls and two RV parks are up and running. The hotels stay full but there are no immediate plans to build apartments.
“It is a non-stop project trying to enhance the development of apartment complexes or new housing units,” Monahans City Manager David Mills said. “There are a lot of opportunities but a severe lack of housing.
“The oilfield over here has been very busy for a couple of years and the availability of housing has been one of our issues,” Mills continued.
If the financing goes through in September, construction could begin in December.
The project is moving along in a timely pace and has garnered national and international interest.
“Even the president has mentioned it,” Andrews said. “The Department of Energy is one step forward to gaining an independence from foreign oil sources.”
And Summit officials say work is on-going to get the project to the launch pad.
“We have dozens of people all over the world working like crazy to get us to the ground breakings,” Project Director of Summit Texas Laura Miller said.