Tio Kleberg, 7th Generation King Ranch Patriarch, Says Solar Is The Future
January 13, 2023
For over 200 years the sun has been the most important thing to the success of the King Ranch, a 825,000-acre ranch that 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, and is known for its agribusiness of cattle ranching, farming such as citrus and turfgrass, and luxury retail leather products.
The sun influences every type of output on the ranch. The weather cycles drive how well the crops and livestock are able to produce.
Now, the sun is changing how this rancher powers his life.
King Ranch’s Kleberg Connects with Solar
Meet Stephen J. “Tio” Kleberg. He needs no introduction if you’re a Texas native. Tio has spent his entire career at the world-famous ranch and is actively involved in civic and business affairs within Texas Tech, Texas A&M, the American Quarter Horse Association, and Phi Delta Theta Foundation.
We got connected to Tio when his electricity bills were getting to be a nuisance. Kleberg’s ranch house has been built by his father Richard in the 1950s. Tio’s childhood home that he grew up in is now his current home, and, with electricity costs topping $750 every month, Kleberg thought of solar.
Now with solar panels installed on his home ranch, 50% of his monthly usage will be powered by the sun. This 50% reduction will cut Kleberg’s monthly utility bill by about $400 off and slash his carbon emissions in half. All together, 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-Built Solar Panels on the King Ranch
The Klebergs were powered up with 85 solar panels, totaling 37 kilowatts of solar capacity, installed as an impressive two-line ground mount on a grassy bank between the ranch house and the Santa Gertrudis Creek. The project was led by our Founder and Chief Installation Officer, Adrian Buck, who you’ll find out on a rooftop every day and never behind a desk. While we typically install our solar as rooftop systems, Adrian and the design team opted for a ground mount that would fit custom for this property’s energy needs and its unique landscape.
The installation environment was rugged and required perseverance and grit. Wildlife such as diamondback rattlesnakes, mosquitos, fire ants, water birds, and even crocodiles made appearances to our crew at various points during the installation week! But none of it compromised the team’s ability to deliver quality craftsmanship in the solar array, because 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 & John-Paul Garrigues
The Klebergs have enjoyed the impressive view of the sleek panels from their home’s courtyard. Tio, an agriculturist and conservationist by training, has noticed wild turkeys nestling into the shade that the solar panels provide from the hot Texas sun, pleasing him 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.”
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