Author: PV-Tech

US solar feeling ‘invincible’ after navigating treacherous year

There’s nearly always a positive vibe at a trade show. A combination of the organisers’ best efforts and the virtuous circle of talking to like-minded people all day, which is great for your brain chemistry, leaves you feeling lighter than you may on an average day in the trenches. It doesn’t necessarily mean what’s happening beyond the showfloor warrants the smiles and backslapping taking place on it.

With that caveat at the forefront of my own mind, I have to say that Solar Power International 2018 felt extremely positive. I’m a dour, sceptical Scotsman. Provoking enthusiastic positivity for anything can be a slog.

Context could be king in this instance. The industry has dealt with steel tariffs, the Section 201 trade barriers, the drop in demand for tax credits and, just before the show began, 25% tariffs on Chinese inverters. Having ridden out all that and having conversations about new solar States opening up to deployment, module prices falling and trackers carrying on their march to higher latitudes, is fairly remarkable. New projects, new technologies and new opportunities.

“In general, there’s a really positive feeling of invincibility to the market,” says Steve Daniel, VP of sales and marketing at mounting and tracker manufacturer Solar FlexRack. “Back in March, I didn’t think we were going to feel this way in September. It’s been very difficult with the tariffs, we’ve just had to work through them but we haven’t seen much drop off because of module or steel tariffs.”

That’s not to say that there hasn’t been some pain but as Daniel describes it, this is being shared.

“Everyone has lowered their margins a little bit and their expectations, but the projects are still moving. There’s been a few delays, but there are always delays in solar projects. Anything can happen and I’ve seen everything. It doesn’t feel that different. It’s just another set of issues to work through,” he adds.

What’s next in the US calendar? Solar & Storage Finance USA returns to New York for its 5th time later this month and will be looking at raising capital for solar, storage and collocated solar and storage projects in the USA. The conference aims to help delegates understand how debt providers are evolving propositions for storage and how they can access projects for standalone and co-located projects. Meet debt providers, funders, utilities, corporate off takers and blue chip energy firms with capital to invest.

There is lots of talk about some of the lumpiest boom and bust markets (think Europe) heading towards a period of growth that is more sustainable. The testing year that the US has just ridden out is another example.

“I think there is a resiliency in the industry that people have built up. I’ve been doing this for eleven years now and every year there is something new and we just figure out a way to keep going,” says Daniel adding that the end demand for solar is contributing factor now the “economics are fantastic” and “undeniable”.

Joe Song, VP of project operations at the developer and investor Sol Systems is reluctant to make a prediction for the coming year. He sees one outside factor contributing to some of the positivity.

“The only that has ever been true is that whatever we expect to happen, will definitely not happen! We went into 2017 thinking all these projects were going to progress and then 201 came around and it paralysed the industry. Everyone went into this year thinking no projects were going to happen. Come May the China market pivoted and it opened up a whole lot of opportunities.”

In addition to the scope for using high-efficiency modules, off the back of those price reductions sparked by China’s policy shift, trackers, emerging US markets and an increasingly hard line on soft costs offer plenty of reason to cheer. Even for a dour Scotsman.

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The 2018 Virginia Energy Plan calls for 3GW of solar and wind installations by 2022

The Commonwealth of Virginia’s new energy plan has called for 3GW of solar and wind installations by 2022 as well as grid modernization to handle both solar and wind totalling 5GW by 2028.

Virginia’s Governor, Ralph Northam released the State’s ‘2018 Virginia Energy Plan’, which provides policy over the next 10 years that is intended to promote renewable energy, energy efficiency and grid modernization for renewables and the transition to electric vehicles. 

Virginia’s utility companies are expected to collectively invest US$115 million per-year in energy efficiency programs, alone.

The plan also calls for 3GW of solar and onshore wind to be deployed by 2022, and 2GW of offshore wind to be deployed by 2028.

“The clean energy sector has the power to create new business opportunities, expand customer access to renewable energy, and spark the high-demand jobs of the 21st century,” said Governor Northam. “Virginia can shift to a more modern electric grid that is reliable, affordable, resilient, and environmentally responsible—and the Commonwealth can lead this critical industry as a result. This plan sets an ambitious path forward for Virginia, and I am confident we will charge ahead towards progress over the course of my administration.”

According to the US Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the 2018 Virginia Energy Plan was an important step for the state to expand solar energy installations over the next 10 years. 

“Governor Northam deserves credit for his leadership on clean energy and for establishing goals that are aligned with business and the public’s desire for energy that is affordable, creates jobs, protects the environment and grows Virginia’s economy,” noted Sean Gallagher, vice president of state affairs for the SEIA. “The solar industry will work with policy leaders, manufacturers and installers across Virginia to meet these benchmarks.”

The SEIA also noted that Virginia was currently ranked 17th in the US for its 635MW of installed solar capacity and supported more than 3,500 jobs and nearly 200 companies across the state.

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Cypress Creek gets US$200 million equity investment from Singapore firm

US solar developer Cypress Creek Renewables has received a US$200 million investment from the Singapore-based firm Temasek.

The funds have been used to purchase preferred stock and warrants for a 10% common stock stake. Two independent directors will be added to the Cypress board. Last month Temasek, which is owned by the Singapore government, led an investment round that provided Cypress with a US$450 million credit facility.

In a statement, the company said the latest equity investment would be used to extend and deliver upon its portfolio of projects.

“Temasek has shown itself to be a patient, forward-looking partner focused on generating sustainable long-term returns – and it is this shared vision that makes expansion of our relationship quite natural,” said Matt McGovern, CEO, Cypress. “The confidence Temasek has shown in our business model and development portfolio is a firm endorsement of our strategy, which we look forward to refining and executing on in tandem in the years to come.”

In May, Cypress said it would be delaying around 1.5GW of projects as it reassessed the market following President Trump’s Section 201 trade tariffs on cell and module imports.

“Our strategy focuses on creating markets, originating projects and allocating capital to the most attractive risk-adjusted opportunities, with success being driven by our ability to navigate development, structural and financial complexities as well as assessing and pricing risk,” added Brad Bauer, Cypress’ chief capital markets officer.

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Pacific Power to support Facebook’s Prineville Data Center with 437MW of solar

Facebook’s Prineville Data Center in Oregon will be supported by 100% renewable energy from 437MW of new solar developments in partnership with Pacific Power, including two projects totaling 100MW in the Prineville area.

“This partnership bolsters Prineville’s 21st century model for a small-town,” Oregon Governor Kate Brown said. “With projects like these, we continue to demonstrate that Oregon is ready for the clean energy economy of the future.”

“Our work with Pacific Power to develop new solar resources represents a significant milestone for our hyper-efficient Prineville Data Center. We are committed to supporting 100% renewable energy, and we are thrilled to have found a solution for our first data center,” said Peter Freed, Facebook’s energy strategy manager.

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FlexGen to build largest energy storage system in Texas co-located with solar

Texas IPP Vistra Energy has contracted energy storage integrator FlexGen to install a 10MW / 42MWh energy storage system (ESS) at the 180MW Upton 2 Solar Power Plant in Texas.   

The lithium-ion storage system, which uses FlexGen’s Hybrid OS software, will be completed in late 2018. It will be the largest storage project in Texas and the seventh largest in the US.

“Vistra is leading our country’s transformation toward a reliable, low cost, sustainable energy mix and we’re thrilled to be supporting its storage strategy,” said Josh Prueher, FlexGen CEO. “The power grid of the future will see energy storage integrated on site with solar, wind, and gas generation, and the Upton solar plus storage project is a trailblazing example.”

FlexGen is backed by Altira Group, General Electric (GE) and Caterpillar. Its storage system will be used to store solar power generated during the day and deliver it to customers during evening hours when demand is greatest, improving grid reliability.

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8minutenergy and NV Energy to build 300MW Nevada solar project on tribal land

NV Energy has chosen US-based developer 8minutenergy Renewables to develop the 300MW(AC) Eagle Shadow Mountain Solar Farm in Clark County, Nevada, next to a retiring coal plant.

The project will be built on the Moapa River Indian Reservation about 30 miles north of Las Vegas, and will be the largest solar installation to date built on tribal land. It will also be the largest solar PV project built for NV Energy, and it comes as part of its latest tranche of renewable projects totaling over 1GW.  In a release, NV Energy said the farm will be built on non-agricultural land using environmentally sensitive construction.

Subject to final approval by the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada, the project will commence construction in mid-2020, and be operational by the end of 2021. The project’s development and construction is also expected to create well over 600 jobs in Clark County.

“We’re proud to be leading the way in supporting the development of clean solar energy on tribal lands,” said Gregory T. Anderson senior chairman of the Moapa Band of Paiutes Tribal Council. “Eagle Shadow Mountain Solar Farm will be special in particular as it’s being built beside a retiring coal plant on our lands, signifying the affordability and importance of renewable energy. We hope to shepherd the way for many other tribes to adopt clean power.”

“We are honored to be working with NV Energy and the Moapa Band of Paiutes to bring this remarkable project to fruition,” said Martin Hermann, CEO and founder of 8minutenergy. “The Eagle Shadow Mountain Solar Farm will deliver abundant and affordable energy to about 180,000 Nevada homes, providing them with reliable clean power. This will also be the largest standalone project in 8minutenergy’s portfolio, and we are dedicated to upholding our track record of finalizing the plant’s operation on-time and on-budget.”

“We are delighted to be working with 8minutenergy and other top-tier solar developers to bring over one gigawatt of low-cost clean solar power and energy storage to our customers in Nevada,” said Paul Caudill, CEO of NV Energy. “This landmark group of projects will help diversify our state’s electricity generation portfolio at industry-leading costs. We calculate that the direct investment in Nevada’s economy, which includes the cost of construction, will be greater than $2 billion.”

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Oregon utility seeks 100 ‘average megawatts’ of renewables

UPDATED: Oregon-based utility Portland General Electric Company (PGE) has issued a request for proposals (RfP) seeking 100 average megawatts (MWa) of renewable energy capacity.

Conrad Eustis, director of Retail Technology Strategy at PGE, said that 1MWa is equivalent to 8,760MWh – adding: “Thus to get 10MWa from rooftop solar in our service area you would need about 91MW of rooftop solar installations, or 62MW of solar with single-axis tracking, or about 50MW of solar with single-axis tracking if installed in Eastern Oregon (but then you’ll need a transmission path).”

Projects must be a minimum of 10MW in size and can use a range of technologies including geothermal, biomass, biogas, solar, wind and hydroelectric power. Bids can also be structured in a variety of ways, including power purchase agreements (PPAs) or proposals for facilities that PGE would own and operate.

PGE shared the RfP in draft form with potential bidders and stakeholders earlier this year, and on 16 May received final approval from Oregon Public Utility Commission to move forward with the competitive bidding process.

“We are committed to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions,” said Maria Pope, PGE’s president and CEO. “Continuing to add renewable resources to our mix while keeping electricity affordable for our customers is key to that effort.”

Portland and the entire county of Multnomah have pledged to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050.

Article updated to clarify that RfP is for 100 average megawatts.

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NextEra sues US treasury over ‘missing’ US$135 million in grants

NextEra Energy is suing the US Treasury Department for more than US$135 million claiming that it miscalculated grants owed to it for the Silver State Solar project in Nevada.

Owners of the 250MW plant, completed in mid-2016, applied for grants under the 1603 Treasury Program, introduced as part of a broader 2009 stimulus package. It provides energy infrastructure investors with cash grants in lieu of tax credits. NextEra requested US$289.1 million but received US$152.4 million.

According to the court filing, the Treasury reduced its valuation of the asset but failed to explain how it had arrived at the new figure following its own 15-month review. After an adjustment to US budgets, the award was reduced to US$141.9 million.

“This review process consisted of a series of ad hoc communications, questions, and commentary from Treasury. However, Treasury did not provide any written explanation of its position or how it ultimately determined its award amounts,” the NextEra complaint states.

The Treasury reduced what it considered to be eligible costs of the project from US$963,677,683 to US$508,008,767. The project uses First Solar modules and single-axis trackers. It was built in eight blocks, the first of which was completed in October 2015.

Separately, the accounting of a US$32 million EPC deal is in dispute, with NextEra seeking a further US$9 million in grants related to the costs embedded in that contract.

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AES and KIUC break ground on Hawaii’s largest solar-plus-storage system

AES Distributed Energy (AES DE), a subsidiary of AES Corporation, and nonprofit transmission firm Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) have broken ground on a 28MW solar and 100MWh five-hour duration battery energy storage system in Kauai, Hawaii.

The Lāwa’i Solar and Energy Storage Project, the largest hybrid solar and storage project in Hawaii, will be located on former sugar land between Lāwaʻi and Kōloa, on Kauai’s south shore. It will provide 11% of KIUC’s generation capacity and increase the portion of renewables in its mix to 60%.

The price will be US$0.11/kWh, which is significantly below the cost of diesel generation, said KIUC’s president and chief executive, David Bissell.

“This will not only provide downward pressure on rates, but also helps us avoid the use of 3.7 million gallons of diesel each year,” he added.

Last October, AES announced it would be using SunPower’s scalable Oasis Power Plant platform for the solar plant.

The battery system will also improve the island’s grid resiliency, providing dispatchable energy from the solar system, with the ability to deliver consistent peak power output for up to five hours outside of daytime hours, alongside power production going straight to the grid during daytime hours.

Woody Rubin, president of AES DE, said: “AES has had a presence in Hawaii for more than 25 years, and this first-of-its-kind project demonstrates our continued commitment to the state’s vision of a cleaner energy future. This innovative project will help reduce Kauai’s reliance on fossil fuels while generating clean, reliable and affordable energy.”

Hawaii has a goal of reaching 100% renewable energy by 2045 and solar and storage combinations have been a major focus already. The Hawai‘i Public Utilities Commission last year approved two new programmes expanding its customers’ abilities to install rooftop PV and energy storage systems. Similarly, in 2016, SolarCity chose Tesla, which later acquired SolarCity, to supply a 52MWh utility-scale energy storage system, which will make the output of a solar farm in Hawaii dispatchable.

Meanwhile, the US Navy is building a 44MW solar power plant with energy storage, also on Kaua’i, while ‘intelligent’ commercial storage provider Stem is aggregating customer systems into a 1MW ‘virtual power plant’ on another island, O’ahu.

Scale of such projects is consistently growing. For example, this week Australia also saw its first large-scale, grid-connected solar-plus-storage system come online, having been built by Conergy.

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California regulators at ‘essential starting point’ to enable revenue stacking

Steps taken in California to enable energy storage systems to provide multiple services and to ‘stack revenues’ are “an essential starting point” for the industry, the head of California’s Energy Storage Alliance (CESA) has said.

In mid-January, California’s Public Utilities’ Commission (CPUC), the state regulator, issued a Proposed Decision on “Multiple use application issues” affecting energy storage systems connected to the grid. For some time, the energy storage industry, particularly among those working with versatile advanced lithium-ion batteries, has advocated that the ability of storage to provide more than one service – sometimes simultaneously – should be better recognised.

This would be of economic benefit to the system owners or operators, who could net several revenue streams that could be built into a ‘revenue stack’, while obviating the need to deploy several energy storage systems or other energy infrastructure that can carry out the same functions, at various locations, which would benefit ratepayers and the overall network. A report by the Brattle Group published in September last year, commissioned by battery and system maker Eos Energy Storage and funded in part by the California Energy Commission (CEC) found that the value of a front-of-meter battery energy storage system in California could double or even treble by adding more than one revenue stream to a project.

To read the full version of this story visit Energy-Storage.News.

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