For over 200 years, the sun has been the most important factor in the success of the King Ranch. In fact, this 825,000-acre ranch gave Kingsville, Texas, its name.
This creek-fed oasis in the Wild Horse Desert of South Texas is larger than the state of Rhode Island. It’s famous for its agribusiness of cattle ranching, farming (such as citrus and turf grass) and luxury retail leather products.
Actually, the sun influences every type of output on the ranch. Weather cycles drive how well the crops and livestock can produce.
Now, the sun is changing how this rancher, Tio Kleberg, powers his life.
KING RANCH’S TIO KLEBERG CONNECTS WITH SOLAR
Meet Stephen J. “Tio” Kleberg. If you’re a Texas native, he needs no introduction. Tio has spent his entire career at the world-famous ranch. Beyond that, he actively participates in civic and business affairs with Texas Tech, Texas A&M, the American Quarter Horse Association and Phi Delta Theta Foundation.
We connected with Tio when his electricity bills began to be a nuisance. Tio’s father, Richard, built the ranch house in the 1950s. Now his childhood home is his current home. And with electricity costs topping $750 every month, Kleberg thought of solar.
With solar panels on his home ranch, the sun powers 50% of his monthly usage. This 50% reduction will cut Kleberg’s monthly utility bill by about $400 and slash his carbon emissions by half. Altogether, that adds up to $140,000 in utility bill savings over the next 25 years.
“I’m going to be real pleased when I don’t have to depend on a utility to power this house,” said Tio.
“What solar means to me is it gives you an alternative, but it’s powerful in that it allows you to think about conservation yet not have to reduce the electricity in your home because you get the backup from solar. You don’t have to turn that thermostat down or the lights off like I’ve been doing trying to save utility costs. Solar gives you that powerful ability to run your life and not feel confined.”
CUSTOM SOLAR PANELS ON THE KING RANCH
Freedom Solar powered up the Klebergs with 85 solar panels, totaling 37 kilowatts of solar capacity. We installed them as an impressive two-line ground mount on a grassy bank between the ranch house and the Santa Gertrudis Creek. Our founder and Chief Installation Officer Adrian Buck led the project. (You’ll find him out on a rooftop every day and never behind a desk, by the way.)
While we typically install our solar as rooftop systems, Adrian and the design team opted for a ground mount that would custom-fit this property’s energy needs and unique landscape.
The installation environment was rugged and demanded perseverance and grit. Plus, plenty of wildlife made appearances to our crew during the installation week: diamondback rattlesnakes, mosquitos, fire ants, water birds and even crocodiles! But nothing compromised the team’s ability to deliver quality craftsmanship in the solar array.
That’s because for every project we work on, we commit to getting the job done — no matter what it takes.
ADDING SOLAR POWER TO THE KING RANCH LEGACY
“One of the best parts of installing Solar is when we get to work for great people and their organizations in remote or historically significant locations,” said Adrian. “This project checked all of these boxes and I like to think it adds to the historical record of the King Ranch. I feel lucky to have been able to participate and contribute to this successful installation, putting solar power to work for the ranch.”
“For me, this definitely was one of those really cool projects at a really cool place,” said Mark Mariano, our VP of operations on-site for the install. “Getting the opportunity to be on the historic ranch, and knowing that the solar we installed will be part of this place for the future … that is something I won’t soon forget.”
Photography credit: Nick Simonite and John-Paul Garrigues
The Klebergs enjoy the impressive view of the sleek panels from their home’s courtyard. Tio, a trained agriculturist and conservationist, has noticed wild turkeys nestling in the shade that the solar panels provide from the hot Texas sun. In turn, he’s pleased to know that the panels haven’t interfered with the natural habitat.
The Klebergs’ solar array will help prevent 1 million pounds of coal from being burned to generate electricity. “The legacy that I’d like to leave for my children is to leave it better than it was left for me. Improve the land, improve conservation methods, and solar is one of those things — it will carry on for the next 150 years.”