Category: News

Florida utility plans world’s largest battery combined with solar

Major US utility Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) is planning to build the world’s largest battery energy storage system adjacent to an existing solar power plant, with plans to roll out multiple other storage systems across the state.

With the key proposed battery standing at 409MW capacity, the Florida energy company claims it will be four times larger than the largest battery currently operating worldwide. Furthermore, the system will help reduce fossil fuel usage and thereby accelerate the decommissioning of two neighbouring, 1970s-era natural gas power units.

The FPL Manatee Energy Storage Center will be powered by an existing PV plant in Parrish, Manatee County, and capable of distributing 900MWh of electricity. It will start serving customers in 2021, with the batteries being used particularly during peak demand periods, thereby reducing the requirement for electricity from other power plants. It will be able to provide energy the equivalent of 329,000 homes for a period of two hours, saving FPL customers more than US$100 million in the process.

Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL, said: “This is a monumental milestone in realizing the full benefits of solar power and yet another example of how FPL is working hard to position Florida as the global gold standard for clean energy.”

The company has 18 solar power plants currently in operation and four more entering construction, but it is no stranger to solar-plus-storage, having opened the largest plant combining solar and storage at Babcock Ranch in Charlotte County in 2018, and the company is now also planning smaller battery installations and solar plants across the state. This, while carrying out efficiency upgrades to existing combustion turbines at other power plants, will help to replace 1,638MW of traditional generating capacity.

“Even as we aggressively execute on our plan to install 30 million solar panels by 2030, we never lose sight of finding innovative ways to bring our customers the benefits of solar energy, even when the sun’s not shining,” added Silagy. “Replacing a large, ageing fossil fuel plant with a mega battery that’s adjacent to a large solar plant is another world-first accomplishment.”

FPL’s two-decade-long modernisation programme has tended to involve replacing oil-based power plants with US-produced natural gas units. However, it is FPL’s increased knowledge of how to optimise solar and batteries as well as the new technologies’ rapidly declining costs, that is allowing FPL to take on these alternative technologies simultaneously.

“The way we generate, store, transport and use electricity is being reinvented. New technology, like large-scale battery storage, is a critical step on the path to a cleaner, cheaper and more efficient energy future. Achieving this outcome is critical to the well-being of our economy, our communities and our planet,” said Temperince Morgan, executive director of the Florida Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

FPL, which serves more than 10 million people, will also soon shut down its only remaining coal plant in Florida by the end of this year.

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BYD in Mexico: Chinese company signs 100MWh deal with investment fund

China’s BYD has signed a deal which could see up to 100MWh of its systems deployed in Mexico as part of a distributed energy and large-scale solar buildout by finance group Pireos Capital.

The battery, electric vehicle and stationary storage system manufacturer has signed a deal with Pireos for projects in the Latin American country. Pireos, an energy fund created to finance projects combining PV and energy storage systems (ESS), has a two-year plan in place to execute 240MW of distributed energy and large-scale solar projects for Mexico.

According to BYD, the pair is already in talks with potential engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) partners to deploy half of the 100MWh project capacity within the next 12 months. Pireos was only founded last year, although the company’s management claims more than two decades of experience of developing solar projects in 17 different countries. The company is seeking to foster investment opportunities in solar, storage and electric transportation, headquartered in Mexico City.

“We have created a specialised financial vehicle to finance the largest PV+ESS project pipeline in Mexico,” Pireos Capital CEO Manuel Vergara said.

BYD makes energy storage systems using lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries for residential and commercial through to large and utility-scale. A BYD press release said that the partnership will enable Pireos to offer integrated solar-plus-storage solutions with smart, software-driven integration capabilities in Mexico for the first time. BYD said this could mitigate the risks associated both with deploying new technologies such as lithium batteries for the grid and reducing the challenges posed by integrating battery systems from multiple vendors.

Navigant: Mexico open for energy storage business

The market for energy storage in Mexico appears to have been slow to develop, with few big announcements emerging since GE claimed in 2017 to that it was at the “very early stages” of developing large-scale storage systems in the country. Then, at the beginning of January this year, Navigant Research analyst Ricardo Rodriguez wrote in a company blog that the nascent battery storage sector in Mexico is now “open for business”, following the 2013 deregulation of the grid which ended a state-run monopoly for electricity supply.

“Although most investment to date has centred on the generation side, deregulation has also greatly expanded opportunities for battery storage,” Rodriguez wrote.

“While the most desired applications for battery storage are similar to those in the US market, including demand reduction, transmission upgrade deferral, peak capacity, and renewables integration, the underlying context for those needs differs in its details – primarily the result of geography.”

Areas of mountainous terrain and the need for extensive transmission system upgrades just to maintain the status quo of energy supply is putting a strain on transmission lines, for instance. Meanwhile, Mexico’s first large-scale battery, a 12MW/12MWh system at a car factory in Monterrey, was installed to ensure the reliability of power supply at that facility in the event of existing gas engines failing. Electricity prices for industry rose significantly in some parts of the country last year, providing a further opportunity for energy storage, Rodriguez highlighted.

BYD and Pireos did not specify which applications the former’s LFP systems will provide, but the battery company said they would be capable of providing a variety of business cases and services from transmission investment deferral, frequency regulation, peak shaving, emergency backup and load shifting to virtual power plants (VPP) and net-zero energy projects, such as housing complexes.

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AMS’ California VPP at ‘important milestone’ with 2GWh of grid services delivered

A contract with utility Southern California Edison (SCE) has led to Advanced Microgrid Solutions (AMS) supplying 2GWh of grid services from just 60MWh of energy storage during 2018, with one analyst dubbing the feat an “impressive milestone”.

AMS CEO and founder Susan Kennedy was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s chief of staff when the Terminator actor served as the ‘green’ Republican Governor of California. Her company has built up a portfolio of ‘Hybrid Electric Buildings’, deploying commercial energy storage systems at customer sites and helping them to reduce their energy bills, while also using the same Tesla battery systems to make money from grid services.

The California-based provider netted US$200m in project financing from Macquarie in 2016 and in 2017 raised another US$34m in a Series B investment round. Meanwhile, California investor-owned utility SCE awarded AMS a contract to help reduce peak demand in the LA Basin, through deploying a number of connected and aggregated battery storage systems nearby.

In 2018, 11MW / 60MWh of that virtual power plant became operational, the first phase of a project which is planned to eventually reach 62MW / 352MWh. Macquarie Capital owns the project, which AMS manages using its Armada software platform. In 2018 alone, the VPP delivered 2GWh of grid services, AMS said yesterday.

“As a whole it is a great milestone for the industry that links into the wider development of how distributed energy storage can provide critical grid services,” Julian Jansen, research and analysis manager for energy storage at I.H.S. Markit told

“AMS and other players in North America are leading the way in aggregating distributed energy storage to provide these type of services, whether it’s peaking capacity or other grid services that grid operators require to ensure the continuous security of [electricity] supply and an operational power grid as part of the wider transformation of the energy system.”

Last year Jansen’s team looked into the US commercial and industrial (C&I) energy storage space in detail, which we wrote about for this site and for our technical journal PV Tech POWER. Jansen said that while most competitors in AMS’ field are approaching slightly different market segments and using different business models, others are currently looking at projects – and commercial contracts – of this type in California and across the wider US.

AMS’ early successes are testament also to the assertion made in that analysis of the US C&I space that rather than hardware, leading players are focusing on the operational and software platform side of the technology. More so than hardware, Jansen said, “it’s really about creating energy solutions and utilising software to effectively aggregate and dispatch them to provide grid services.”

While the C&I systems allow businesses to cut energy costs by helping them reduce peak demand – and therefore the demand charges levied onto US industrial electric customers – the deployment of behind-the-meter storage systems for SCE has also leaned heavily on the grid services the batteries can also deliver to make the economics work in this case. AMS – and others – are effectively ‘value stacking’ (delivering multiple applications and value, often simultaneously), Jansen said.

“It’s a combination [of services] or a value stack in this case. In order to develop such a large portfolio of projects, the capacity contracts that they hold are crucial, but this is usually coupled with customer-sited benefits such as demand charge management.”  

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Residential flourishes and utility flounders in mixed 2018 for US PV

Tariff and policy uncertainty saw installations decline across US utility and non-residential PV last year even as the residential segment bounced back, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Wood Mackenzie.

The latest update from the trade body and the consultancy found a 7% year-on-year dip for US utility-scale PV installations in 2018.

The segment, the analysis found, produced the bulk (6.2GW) of PV-wide capacity additions (10.6GW) in the country last year but faltered under “disruption, delay and even cancellation” due to Section 201 tariffs.

Adopted last year, the US levies on module and cell imports prompted sponsors to postpone 2018 commercial launches to 2019, according to the SEIA and Wood Mackenzie. In the Carolinas, delays were compounded by a hold-up with interconnections under the PURPA programme.

For utility-scale PV, the flip side to the Section 201 tariffs was that module prices are falling faster than expected. This, the analysis pointed out, boosted competitiveness and helped drive the signing of 13.2GW of utility solar PPAs in 2018; the resulting, current contracted pipeline of 25.3GW marks an all-time record for US solar. 

PV in US power addition top two for sixth year running

According to the SEIA and Wood Mackenzie, the 10.6GW added across all PV subcategories in 2018 marks the sixth consecutive year where solar is amongst the US top two for power additions, together with natural gas.

Unlike utility solar, the residential segment reversed its decline throughout 2017 by recording in 2018 year-on-year installation growth of 7%. The steady pace of addition indicates the market is nearing its maturity point, the new analysis indicates.

According to the document, installations across California, Massachusetts and the other typical residential heavyweights are being fast overtaken by new-entrants including Texas and Florida.

Future residential growth can be fuelled by incentives and net metering – Nevada saw a 261% jump in 2018 after reinstating the policy – but could be hindered by high customer acquisition costs, the SEIA and Wood Mackenzie noted.

Their analysis found a slight decline – 8% – in non-residential installations of US PV in 2018. Massachusetts and California alone saw a joint 450MW dip last year, although the former (64% drop) bore the brunt to a greater extent than the latter (17%).

See here for more information on the US Solar Market Insight by the SEIA and Wood Mackenzie

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Tesla admits to cell supply constraints as energy storage ramps up

As well as Elon Musk remarking that the company may have had its “best ever quarter” for solar since the SolarCity takeover, Tesla’s energy storage deployments have enjoyed a ramp up, while a fellow exec hinted the stationary battery business is constrained by cell supply.

The solar roof tile remains delayed from reaching volume production until next year. Nonetheless, in an earnings call with analysts, Musk commented that “we saw higher revenues and better profitability in our energy business. In fact, it may have been our best quarter ever for solar”. Tesla CTO and self-professed battery tech fanatic JB Straubel said later in the call that cell supply is “somewhat tight” for the energy business which includes the Powerwall and Powerpack residential and grid storage products.

Tesla reported third-quarter energy storage deployments of 239MWh, an increase of 18% from the previous quarter (203MWh) and 118% compared to the prior year period. Energy storage continues to be the major catalyst in the segment revenue growth, which reached the second highest ever level of US$399.3 million. The company touted that due to the storage install growth, tripling of energy storage deployments in 2018, compared to 2017 was on track, despite expected seasonality issues in the fourth quarter of 2018. Supporting the growth claims was the eventual increase at Gigafactory 1 of its Powerwall production in the quarter, which was having an effect on reducing its order backlog. has reported on several grid-scale projects supplied or soon to be supplied with Tesla’s Powerpack battery systems during the quarter, including a contract to deliver a 52MWh storage system for a 280MW wind farm in Australia, the inauguration of New Zealand’s first grid battery storage facility and an order from Amazon for a 3.77MW system at the retail giant’s ‘fulfilment centre’ in Tilbury, England. Meanwhile the 129MWh battery Tesla put into operation in South Australia a few months ago is reportedly generating healthy revenues as well as network cost savings.

Julian Jansen, senior analyst, Energy Storage at IHS Markit pointed out that “strategically, it’s quite simple” for Tesla to serve both the C&I and front-of-meter market segments with the Powerpack, which is scalable to either or both sets of applications. This includes acting as supplier and integrator of Powerpack systems in the US C&I market for projects developed and operated by AMS (Advanced Microgrid Solutions). Jansen said that partnership alone equates to more than 100MWh of operational Powerpacks, based on publicly announced figures from AMS. 

Solar performance at peak

Tesla reported third-quarter 2018 total solar installations of 93MW, 11% higher than the previous quarter (84MW), which are the best installation figures since the fourth quarter of 2017, yet lower (107MW) than the prior year period.

Tesla expects solar installations in 2018 to have peaked in the third quarter, guiding lower solar mix and seasonality within its Energy generation segment to be lower in the fourth quarter.

The company claimed that its previous decision in early 2018, to change the way it sold residential PV systems from call centres and third-party leads to mainly online and Tesla automotive stores was working but reducing acquisition costs had been problematic.

However, without providing data, Tesla said: “We have significantly improved the time to install our solar and energy storage products and customers will continue to see faster installation”.

The company also reported that in the third quarter, cash and loan sales made up 80% of residential installations, up from 46% in the prior year and 68% in the second quarter of 2018.

Despite performance, earnings call mostly ignored storage business

There was the opening allusion to improved performance in the energy business and Musk stated later that “we’ve got to continue improving” Powerpack, Powerwall and other energy products. However the earnings call which followed the quarterly results report focused almost entirely on electric vehicles, as might have been expected. Vehicle safety and new autopilot features as well as expected production and sales volumes for the Model 3 and a newer, even more ‘affordable’ car launch next year were all discussed.

Dan Galves of Wolfe Research asked the Tesla representatives whether there was truth in “some noise about” battery cell supply being “tight” and whether “demand is outpacing supply”. Galves went on to ask what Tesla’s long-term expansion plans were, including thoughts on cell supply from China.

JB Straubel replied that there had been one brief period in the quarter when “supply was fairly tight” for Model 3 production, but that production had not been constrained in any meaningful way. Musk interjected that it had been less than a week of delays, which Straubel confirmed to be “a few days”.

“The impact was largely felt on the energy products,” Straubel added.

“And that still is somewhat tight. But we do, as we’ve pointed out in previous discussions, we do have third-party supplies of energy cells.”

Moving on, supplies from partner Panasonic are expanding. Straubel mentioned one cell production line which has just gone live, plus “another line coming on and then one other after that” while existing lines are “continuing to improve” their productivity.

CFO Deepak Ahuja and Musk did some quick arithmetic to claim that just over half the lithium-ion batteries tracked globally that went into EVs made in the last quarter – about 19GWh or 20GWh according to Ahuja – were in Tesla vehicles. Musk added that long-term, cell supply “would be produced in China. Short-term, we’re not certain of the short-term situation, but long-term certainly”.

Additional reporting by Mark Osborne. 

Conference call transcript by Seeking Alpha and audio via Tesla. 

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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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