Imperial Valley’s Mount Signal 3 Solar Farm Reaches Commercial Ops

8minutenergy Renewables LLC and Capital Dynamics have celebrated the completion and commercial operation of the 328 MW Mount Signal 3 Solar Farm in Southern California.

Located in the city of Calexico in the Imperial Valley, the project is the largest in the 800 MW Mount Signal solar cluster. Mount Signal 3, acquired by Capital Dynamics’ clean energy infrastructure (CEI) business in 2017, commenced construction earlier this year and is being brought to commercial operation ahead of schedule.

8minutenergy was the original developer of all three solar farms in the Mount Signal cluster. With Mount Signal 1 and Mount Signal 3 both now complete, the cluster has approximately 80% of its total final capacity online. Mount Signal 1 and 3 will generate a combined 1.29 billion kWh of renewable power annually for the residents of 15 Southern California counties. Southern California Edison and 8minutenergy signed a long-term power purchase agreement for Mount Signal 3’s energy in 2014.

“This is a big day for California and the entire solar industry. As the original developer of the Mount Signal solar cluster, 8minutenergy is incredibly proud to bring this phase of the largest solar plant in the state to completion,” remarks Tom Buttgenbach, CEO and president of 8minutenergy. “Mount Signal is a clear demonstration that solar is ready to power California’s 100 percent clean energy future ahead of schedule. The Imperial County board of supervisors, their staff, our dedicated partners and the outstanding local workforce were all critical in ensuring that we beat our aggressive timeline in bringing Mount Signal 3 to completion. I’d also like to thank Capital Dynamics and Southern California Edison for being tremendous partners on this project.”

Mortenson Construction provided the engineering, procurement and construction contracting for the Mount Signal 3 plant. Key suppliers included First Solar, with 2.8 million Series 4 thin-film solar panels; NEXTracker, with its NX Horizon smart solar tracker; and TMEIC, with 96 Solar Ware Samurai 2700 Central inverters.

“Capital Dynamics is proud to have the development of Mount Signal 3 completed and now providing hundreds of millions of clean kilowatt-hours to the grid. Large-scale solar delivers what California needs – massive amounts of clean energy, reliably and at a low cost,” says John Breckenridge, head of Capital Dynamics’ CEI team.

 

Imperial Valley’s Mount Signal 3 Solar Farm Reaches Commercial Ops, by Betsy Lillian, Solar Industry, December 7, 2018.

Inland Empire Utilities Agency Selected as a 2018 Cool Planet Award Recipient

Chino Hills, CA – The Inland Empire Utilities Agency (IEUA/Agency) was recently recognized as a 2018 Cool Planet Award Recipient. The award celebrates Southern California Edison (SCE) business customers that incorporate sustainability into their long-term plans while demonstrating exemplary leadership in energy and carbon management within their business size and industry sector.

The Agency has made significant strides in reducing its dependence on the electrical power grid by investing in renewable energy programs. In an effort to diversify and maximize renewable energy generation, the Agency installed 3.5 megawatts (MW) of solar power in 2008 and a 1 MW wind turbine in 2011. Combined, these projects have provided more than 50% of peak energy demand Agency-wide. In addition, the Agency has 4.1 MW of battery storage.

“IEUA is planning for the future, and it is an honor to be recognized for it,” said IEUA Board President Steve Elie. “As a leader in clean energy and environmental stewardship, we are striving to achieve energy independence through a commitment to optimizing facility energy usage for the effective management of renewable resources.”

The Climate Registry and SCE collaborate to recognize SCE business customers in the Water and Wastewater sector who implement energy efficiency projects, participate in demand response programs, and establish environmental and greenhouse gas emissions management systems. All nomination forms for the award were evaluated by representatives from The Climate Registry and SCE using a point-based system focusing on an organization’s participation in a variety of SCE integrated demand side management strategies, including energy management, demand response programs and energy audits.

The Inland Empire Utilities Agency covers 242-square miles, distributes imported water, provides industrial/municipal wastewater collection and treatment services, and other related utility services to more than 875,000 people through its member agencies which include Chino, Chino Hills, Cucamonga Valley Water District, Fontana, Fontana Water Company, Montclair, Monte Vista Water District, Ontario, and Upland. www.ieua.org

 

Inland Empire Utilities Agency Selected as a 2018 Cool Planet Award Recipient, Press Release from Inland Empire Utilities Agency, Inland Empire, November 28, 2018.

Rancho Cucamonga Receives Awards for its Sustainable Community Action Plan

Rancho Cucamonga, Ca – The City of Rancho Cucamonga received the Cool Planet Award for exemplary leadership in energy and carbon management from The Climate Registry and Southern California Edison (SCE). The Cool Planet Award celebrates SCE business customers who implement energy efficiency projects, participate in demand response programs, conduct energy audits, and establish environmental and greenhouse gas emissions management systems. The recognition was primarily for our streetlight retrofit project, Sustainable Community Action Plan and demand response participationTen awardees were recognized, and Rancho Cucamonga was the only city recognized in San Bernardino County. The award ceremony was held at Sony Studios in Culver on October 19, 2018.

“The Cool Planet Award recognizes businesses that incorporate sustainability into their long-term plans,” said Ann McCabe, Interim Executive Director of The Climate Registry. “Congratulations to all Award recipients that have demonstrated a commitment to reducing their carbon footprint by working alongside SCE in order to manage their energy use.”

The City has been honored with multiple awards this year for its Sustainable Community Action Plan and robust energy efficiency efforts. This includes the Green Region Award from Southern California Association of

Governments (SCAG), Innovation in Green Community Award from American Planning Association Inland Empire Section and California Chapter, Platinum Level Beacon Spotlight Award for achieving a 23% energy savings from the Institute for Local Government, and the Red Tape to Red Carpet Award for Sustainable and Green Development from the Inland Empire Economic Partnership. 

Rancho Cucamonga Mayor, L. Dennis Michael stated, “Being a recipient of these awards truly authenticates the City’s holistic approach to sustainability that encompasses a collaborative community input process.”

These impressive accomplishments were achieved by implementing an increasing amount of sustainability initiatives including expanding the electric vehicle charging infrastructure, partnering with GRID Alternatives to install no-cost solar powered systems on ten homes for low-income Rancho Cucamonga families, releasing a Request for Proposal for the SolarRC Expansion Project for five additional city and fire facilities, and installing “green bike lanes” at key intersections throughout the City.

These recognitions reinforce that the Plan is truly the vision and roadmap for Rancho Cucamonga’s sustainable future. Key areas of the Plan include energy and water efficiency, land use and open space, transportation and mobility, green building and waste reduction while addressing economy and community health and equity throughout. This approach utilizes a unique triple-bottom line analysis to drive holistic and comprehensive sustainable change throughout the community. The City’s participation in all of these award programs aligns the Healthy RC Initiative program, which strives towards a healthy and sustainable Rancho Cucamonga by adopting policies and implementing programs and strategies that advance health and environmental sustainability in the community.

For More Information – For more information please contact Deborah Allen, Management Aide-Sustainability, at (909) 774-2047 or by email at Deborah.Allen@CityofRC.us. For more information on the green programs, energy efficiency, and solar programs available please visit www.HealthyRC.com.

The City of Rancho Cucamonga encompasses 40.1 square miles and is located 40 miles east of Los Angeles; considered to be the premier city in the Inland Empire, Rancho Cucamonga is one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in Southern California with a current population of over 175,000 residents. Information regarding the City and the programs and services provided to the community can be found at www.CityofRC.us.

 

Rancho Cucamonga Receives Awards for its Sustainable Community Action PlanPress Release from The City of Rancho Cucamonga, Inland Empire, November 9, 2018.

After more than a decade, the 500 MW Palen Solar Project is approved

The long and winding road has found its end.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) yesterday released its Record of Decision, authorizing the Palen Solar Project, a photovoltaic facility owned by EDF Renewable Energy, to occupy up to 3,140 acres of BLM-administered lands, approximately 10 miles east of Desert Center, north of Interstate 10, in Riverside County. The BLM noted that the project will employ 1,000 people at its peak, with 550 onsite doing construction as a peak – and it will spend greater than $1 billion for all aspects of the project.

The project is projected to generate 1.6 terawatt hours each year, an AC capacity factor of 36% (!!) and a DC capacity factor factor of 29%.

The facility was originally submitted in 2007 as a concentrating solar power plant by Solar Millennium, who went bankrupt before final approval. Brightsource Energy bought the rights to the project at auction in 2013, but the company and partner Abengoa Solar abandoned the state proceeding in that year. In late 2015 EDF Renewable Energy acquired Abengoa’s interest in the project and resubmitted it for consideration.

The BLM website offer a huge amount of information on this project, including one package(.pdf) that includes many maps, and layout types related to the project that were required as part of the significant volumes of analysis required to deliver this project. It also included a design package (.pdf) that was submitted about a year ago that shows significant engineering work.

The project requires construction of a 6.7-mile single circuit 230 kilovolt generation interconnection (gen-tie) transmission line connecting the project to the Southern California Edison Red Bluff Substation.

Preliminary drafts of the design package from above note the specific hardware being used. Modules will be mounted on NEXTracker single axis trackers – the SPT specifically. Earlier documentation listed Canadian Solar Diamond CS6X modules, specifying between 310 and 320 watts per panel. Later documents noted that a module up to 390 watts from Canadian solar might be used, but hadn’t necessarily been chosen. And inverters supplied by Power Electronics, the FS1500-CH15 1.25 MW 1500VDC units are listed.

The field of panels consists of repeating blocks of 2.50 MW-AC each. The approximate dimensions of an array block consist of 8,046 panels, separated into four quadrants. Within each quadrant, there would be 25 rows comprised of 27-panel strings. Each block would employ two inverters, 1.25 MW each, set along the access roads, in the middle of the panel array area.

The project noted 400 inverters, and 3,137,940 solar modules.

The scale of the project really comes into focus with the delivery schedule. The solar modules alone, will require 8,210 truck deliveries – 10-12 a day, for 22 months!

The project is forever memorialized in the almost 900 page Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement/ Environmental Impact Report/ Land Use Plan Amendment (.pdf)

Patience pays off it seems.

 

After more than a decade, the 500 MW Palen Solar Project is approved, by John Weaver, PV Magazine, November 1, 2018.

A new solar farm is coming to California desert, with the Trump administration’s blessing

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The federal government has approved a sprawling solar farm on public lands just outside Joshua Tree National Park, over the objections of environmental groups who say the industrial energy facility will harm wildlife and fragile ecosystems.

The Palen solar project would span about five square miles of open desert east of the Coachella Valley, just north of Interstate 10 and eight miles south of Joshua Tree National Park’s nearest boundary. The Bureau of Land Management said the project will cost $1 billion to build and employ more than 550 people per day during construction, on average. The 550-megawatt solar farm would generate enough carbon-free electricity to balance out the planet-warming emissions of 17,000 average Palm Springs homes.

President Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke have focused on increasing production of coal, oil and natural gas, the fossil fuels mainly responsible for climate change. But they’ve also taken steps that could boost solar and wind on public lands. Earlier this year, the Interior Department announced it would consider changes to a land-use plan that protects millions of acres of public lands in the California desert, saying the plan makes it too difficult to build renewable energy projects in California.

“President Trump and Secretary Zinke have called for an all-of-the-above energy strategy that will ensure America’s energy security, while also strengthening our infrastructure in support of the economy,” Joseph Balash, assistant secretary for land and minerals management at the Interior Department, said in a statement Thursday in announcing the department’s approval of Palen solar. “The Palen Solar Project will provide benefits to the local community and the region both now and in the future.”

While environmentalists generally support the growth of renewable energy to fight climate change, some groups have pushed back against large-scale solar and wind farms in sensitive desert areas. They say building projects in the wrong locations can disrupt ecosystems, harming species like the desert tortoise and golden eagle. They’ve pushed for more solar panels on rooftops, and in already-disturbed natural spaces.

The land where Palen would be built is a poor spot for a solar farm, conservationists have argued. Groups including the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife and the National Parks Conservation Association have said the power plant would destroy desert tortoise habitat, interrupt a sand transport corridor that feeds the sand-dune habitat of Mojave fringe-toed lizard and desert kit foxes and diminish views from the national park.

“This is a very remote area,” said Ileene Anderson, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “It has really important ecosystem values, which include this sand river that basically flows from Joshua Tree National Park to the Colorado River and provides habitat for a lot of very unique plants and animals.”

Native American tribes have also spoken out against the Palen project. They’ve pointed to the cumulative environmental impacts of four large solar farms that have already been built in eastern Riverside County, and several more that have been proposed.

“The desert is now plowed up, and the habitats have been destroyed, the ecosystems have been destroyed,” Patricia Robles, chair of the Lacuna de Aztlan Sacred Sites Protection Circle, a Native American group, said at a public meeting on the Palen project in 2016. “The desert bioregion is a very important region to the world and it is very hard to restore. You will never see the desert the way it was prior to the destruction.”

WIND POWER:Big changes coming to San Gorgonio Pass, outside Palm Springs

SOLAR PLUS STORAGE:Solar industry approaches ‘new frontier’ in California desert 

Palen’s developer is San Diego-based EDF Renewables, a subsidiary of the state-owned French electric utility EDF. The company has signed contracts to sell energy from Palen and another nearby solar farm, Desert Harvest, to Southern California EdisonMarin Clean Energy in the Bay Area and the cities of Anaheim, Burbank and Vernon. It’s not yet clear when EDF Renewables will begin construction of the two solar projects.

It’s been a long road to approval for Palen. The solar farm was first proposed in 2008 by a German firm. That company went bankrupt and the project was ultimately acquired by a Spanish firm that hoped to build 750-foot “power towers” rather than regular solar panels. That company filed for bankruptcy, too. EDF bought Palen and went back to the drawing board, asking the federal government to approve a traditional solar farm.

EDF executive Ian Black said in an email that the company is “grateful to the (Bureau of Land Management) for completing its environmental review of Palen, converting the site from a solar-thermal experiment to an environmentally-preferable, economically-viable” 500-megawatt solar photovoltaic plant. He said Palen will help utilities meet California’s renewable energy mandate “from one of the best solar resource areas on the planet.”

During the decade of tumult for Palen, environmental groups increasingly fought with energy developers over proposed solar and wind farms in the California desert. In an effort to resolve those fights, state and federal officials spent years crafting the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, which protects millions of acres while setting aside smaller areas for renewable energy.  The Obama administration finalized the plan in 2016. The final product wasn’t popular among developers, who said the restrictions would make it too difficult to build solar and wind farms. But there were no lawsuits.

In early 2018, the Trump administration upset the status quo, announcing it would consider changes to the desert plan, known as the DRECP. Shannon Eddy, executive director of the Large-scale Solar Association, a Sacramento-based trade group, told The Desert Sun earlier this year she’s “cautiously optimistic” about changes to the DRECP. She said she asked the Trump administration to make targeted changes to the plan through an administrative process, rather than throwing it out and starting from scratch.

“We think upending the plan would result in years of litigation, which doesn’t serve anyone’s interests,” Eddy said.

The Interior Department didn’t respond to a request for comment Thursday about the status of its DRECP review. The Palen solar project would be built on lands identified for renewable energy development in the desert plan.

The Trump administration approved a 3,100-acre version of Palen, rather than the 4,200-acre version proposed by the developer. The reduced-footprint alternative avoids a large dry wash that runs through the project site, which conservationists say could limit the project’s damage to microphyll woodlands, where occasional bursts of water nourish vegetation that provides habitat for birds, mammals and reptiles. But the 3,100-acre configuration also extends further into the sand transport corridor, conservationists say.

Anderson said the Center for Biological Diversity hasn’t yet decided whether to sue the federal government to try to block the project.

Sammy Roth writes about energy and the environment for The Desert Sun. He can be reached at sammy.roth@desertsun.com, (760) 778-4622 and @Sammy_Roth.

 

A new solar farm is coming to California desert, with the Trump administration’s blessing, by Sammy Roth, Desert Sun, November 1, 2018.

460,000 solar panels on their way in the Imperial Valley

As California leads the nation’s push to renewable energy, many parts of the state have seen intense development. Leading these regions is California’s Imperial Valley, and perhaps no route been transformed to the same degree as the area along California state route 98 west of Calexico.

Here the irrigated green of farmlands gives way seemingly endless rows of blue-black PV modules, lining both sides of the highway just north of the Mexico border. A stretch of only a few miles hosts 711 MW-DC of solar in four massive plants – together representing more solar capacity than the bottom 16 U.S. states combined – with another 252 MW under construction at the Mount Signal 3 Solar Farm.

Earlier this month construction giant Swinerton broke ground on a sixth project, the 200 MW-DC Mount Signal 2 project, in collaboration with New Energy Solar and the project’s previous owner D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments (DESRI).

The plant’s site occupies 1,200 acres of former farmland near the banks of the New River, and here Swinerton plans to install 460,000 of First Solar’s Series 6 PV modules on NEXTracker single-axis trackers, for a combined capacity of 200 MW-DC.

This is another validation for the Series 6, which only began rolling off of production lines earlier this year, and Mount Signal 2 is one of many projects which will mount the large-format modules on NEXTracker trackers. These modules will in turn plug into Power Electronics inverters and feed power lines owned by San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E), with Mount Signal 2 expected to churn out enough electricity to power 70,000 homes when completed late next year.

This is double the population of nearby Calexico, but by now the Imperial Valley is generating far more mid-day power than it consumes. Instead, the Valley’s many solar plants are feeding the Los Angeles and San Diego metro areas. In the case of the Mount Signal 2, the plant has a 20-year power contract with utility Southern California Edison to meet demand in the sprawling Los Angeles metro area.

This does not mean that there are not benefits for the Imperial Valley. Swinerton notes that unemployment in the Valley is around 20%, and building the plant will require 200 construction workers, as well as providing other local economic benefits.

“Mount Signal 2 exemplifies the lasting economic impact a solar project can have on a community,” said George Hershman, general manager of Swinerton Renewable Energy. “This project will offer the underemployed local workforce not only hundreds of well-paying jobs, but also the opportunity to build a skill set that can be used on future solar projects in the area.”

New Energy Solar picked up the project in March from DESRI and put in $85 million in equity. The remainder is funded with non-recourse construction debt provided by a syndicate of banks including HSBC Bank USA, KeyBank NA and Santander. Wells Fargo will supply tax equity when construction is complete.

 

460,000 solar panels on their way in the Imperial Valley, by Christian Roselund, PV Magazine, October 29, 2018.

esVolta scores another win with 38.5 MWh SCE battery contract

Batteries are increasingly becoming big business, particularly in California, and this is leading to the growth of a new class of energy storage start-ups.

One of the companies that is scaling rapidly is esVolta. The company only formed at the end of 2017, coming out of the gate with the acquisition of 116 megawatt-hours (MWh) of projects from Powin Energy last December, and has grown substantially since then.

Yesterday the company’s list of active projects grew, with esVolta announcing a contract to develop, build and operate four new battery projects totaling 38.5 megawatt-hours (MWh) for Southern California Edison (SCE) in Ventura and Riverside Counties.

The Wildcat Energy Storage and Acorn Energy Storage projects were awarded in SCE’s 2017 Integrated Distributed Energy Request for Offers (RFO), and will help SCE to both enhance reliability and avoid more costly upgrades to its distribution system by targeted deployment of batteries. In terms of their participation in the market, the projects will provide both energy and ancillary services to the California grid.

The Wildcat Energy Storage project will feature a 3 MW/12 MWh near Palm Springs, and the three Acorn Energy Storage projects will total 6.5 MW/26.5 MWh in Thousand Oaks.

All four still need approval by California regulators before they can proceed, and esVolta expects to put all four projects only by March 2020.

These follow on the awarding last July of a massive 75 MW / 300 MWh energy storage project by Pacific Gas & Electric Company for Santa Clara, in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley.

esVolta’s website notes that the company has an operational portfolio of 116 MWh. Completion of the SCE and PG&E projects would bring this to over 450 MWh, but this may be only the beginning, as esVolta estimates that it has around 2,000 MWh of projects in its development pipeline.

 

esVolta scores another win with 38.5 MWh SCE battery contract, by Christian Roselund, PV Magazine, October 16, 2018.

The solar industry approaches a ‘new frontier’ in the California desert

A long-awaited energy revolution is beginning to take shape in the vast open deserts of Southern California.

Riverside County is already home to four sprawling solar power plants, stretching across thousands of acres of desert between Palm Springs and the Arizona border. Now three developers have proposed building solar plants with built-in battery storage — meaning they could store electricity generated during the day and sell it to customers after dark.

The idea of pairing solar panels with energy storage isn’t new. But as lithium-ion batteries get cheaper, dreams and reality are converging. A report released last month by the research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance found that in parts of the Southwest, energy from a new solar-plus-storage project is now cheaper than energy from a new gas-burning power plant. As battery costs continue to fall, it’s getting easier for solar to displace gas and coal, the fossil fuels typically used to generate electricity.

“It’s not a simple, ‘Oh yeah, it makes sense to add batteries in every single solar project,'” said Yayoi Sekine, a co-author of the Bloomberg New Energy Finance report. “But what’s happening in the Southwest — and I think we’re going to see this trend more broadly in other markets later — is there’s value that batteries can add.”

A handful of solar-plus-storage projects have made headlines over the past year. The utility company Arizona Public Service agreed to buy a 50-megawatt battery, which will store electricity for evening use from a 65-megawatt solar farm. Hawaiian Electric Company contracted for a 20-megawatt battery to support a 20-megawatt solar plant. In Colorado, the utility Xcel Energy received record-low bids for solar-plus-storage plants.

But what’s being contemplated on public lands in the California desert is bigger.

Recurrent Energy, based in San Francisco, wants to build a 350-megawatt desert solar farm with up to 350 megawatts of energy storage. The Arizona-based developer First Solar is planning a 450-megawatt solar farm, with a still-undetermined amount of storage. And San Diego-based EDF Renewable Energy recently announced a contract that involves 70 megawatts of solar power and 35 megawatts of storage.

None of the projects is expected to come online for at least two years. But they send a clear message about where the energy market is headed. California got 32 percent of its electricity from renewable resources including solar and wind last year, not counting energy generated by rooftop solar panels. Batteries could help address the challenge of solar and wind farms not always being able to generate electricity when it’s needed.

Recurrent Energy’s Crimson solar project would be built on federal lands south of Interstate 10 in eastern Riverside County. Mike Toomey, the company’s development director, said it’s not clear if demand will materialize for 350 megawatts of storage. But there may be more than enough demand — and Recurrent wants to be prepared.

“We’re making sure that we can fully respond to whatever the market demands might be in the future,” Toomey said. “It is primarily driven by what a customer’s looking for.”

There are plenty of electricity customers in California, and plenty of reasons they might buy solar power after the sun goes down. The average cost of electricity from a big solar or wind farm was on par with electricity from a gas-fired power plant last year, according to the investment bank Lazard. And lithium-ion battery costs have fallen 79 percent since 2010, according to a report this year from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

California Gov. Jerry Brown, meanwhile, signed a bill in September requiring the state to get 100 percent of its electricity from climate-friendly sources by 2045 — the latest in a series of clean energy bills designed to bring solar and wind power into the mainstream.

Not all of that clean electricity will come from solar and wind. Geothermal power plants that generate energy around the clock are also an option, as are hydropower plants. But a lot more batteries will almost certainly be needed to support new solar and wind farms.

“We all acknowledge that, over time, storage will be a critically important portion of the electricity system,” said Eran Mahrer, vice president for markets and government affairs at First Solar. “When specifically that will occur has a lot of variables associated with it.”

In the short term, a key driver of the energy storage market is a 30 percent federal tax credit for solar investments. Developers who integrate batteries into their solar projects can take the tax credit on their entire investment, including the cost of the batteries. The 30 percent tax credit will begin phasing down after 2019, creating a strong incentive for developers like First Solar to start construction on their projects by the end of 2019.

But even after the tax credit drops, the economics of solar plus storage will still compare favorably to new gas plants in the Southwest, Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts. Sekine, the Bloomberg analyst, said many solar-plus-storage plants will probably be built outside the handful of western states where the technology is now being pioneered.

“Solar and storage has become almost a new frontier,” Sekine said.

First Solar executives say batteries are just part of the story about solar’s future.

First Solar’s 450-megawatt Desert Quartzite project would be the fourth big solar farm the company has built in Riverside County, and potentially its first with storage. The federal Bureau of Land Management released a draft environmental impact report for Desert Quartzite in August, and is accepting public comments through November 8.

The developer also sees growing opportunities for solar power that don’t involve batteries. First Solar worked with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the California power grid operator on a groundbreaking report, released last year, which found that a solar plant can do many of the same things a traditional fossil fuel plant can do to keep reliable electricity flowing through the power grid — even without batteries.

The report was based on tests conducted at a First Solar facility in California, and showed that solar plants can quickly increase or decrease their output to respond to energy demand on the grid, at least while the sun is shining. Such “ancillary services” are critical to providing reliable power and avoiding blackouts. They’ve largely been the domain of coal and gas plants for decades, but the new report presents evidence solar plants can do the job, too.

“It’s a very big deal, in that now we’re obviously excited that renewables can provide some of these services,” the report’s lead author, Clyde Loutan, told The Desert Sun in February 2017. Loutan is a senior advisor for renewable energy integration at the California Independent System Operator, which oversees the power grid for most of the state.

Mahrer, the First Solar executive, said he anticipates rising demand for ancillary services as the solar industry grows its market share, and as utilities and regulators look for new and creative ways to add more renewable energy to the grid. Batteries will be another solution, but they create additional costs, and they may not be needed in every situation.

Mahrer also said he doesn’t want the solar industry to “fall into the same pitfalls that we fell into 10, 15 years ago,” when “entire states and regions of the country” decided not to buy solar power yet because they expected costs to continue to fall. That wait-and-see attitude delayed the growth of solar power, Mahrer said, and he’s worried the same thing could happen with batteries, which are seeing similar cost declines today. Even if batteries are cheaper in a few years, the energy industry needs to start experimenting with the technology and learning the full extent of its capabilities now, Mahrer said.

“The (solar plus storage) plant we build today won’t be the most economic plant on the grid 10 years from now,” he said. “And I don’t think that matters.”

Sammy Roth writes about energy and the environment for The Desert Sun. He can be reached at sammy.roth@desertsun.com, (760) 778-4622 and @Sammy_Roth.

 

The solar industry approaches a ‘new frontier’ in the California desert, by Sammy Roth, Desert Sun, October 4, 2018.

Los Angeles-Orange County area leads the nation in clean-energy jobs, Inland Empire ranks 16th

The Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana region is the nation’s top metro area for clean-energy jobs and the Inland Empire ranks 16th, according to a study released Tuesday by E2, a national organization of environmental entrepreneurs.

The state’s 519,000 clean-energy jobs are heavily focused in metro areas, where more than 430,000 of those jobs are located.

The greater Los Angeles region has 163,000 of the jobs and the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario area has 40,000, according to the study.

“Cities are seeing the benefits of shifting to clean energy, with jobs and economic growth,” said Bob Keefe, E2 executive director. “These are good jobs in energy efficiency, construction, manufacturing, renewable energy and clean fuels and vehicles.”

The industry group, whose members have founded or funded more than 2,500 companies, advocates for government policies that support clean-energy.

The fastest growing job in the clean-energy field is wind-turbine technician, followed by solar panel installers and clean-car mechanics, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

California ranking

California accounts for 16 percent of the 3.2 million clean-energy jobs nationwide but accounts for 24 percent of clean-energy jobs in the the study’s rundown of the top 50 metro areas. The state accounts for 12 percent of the nation’s population.

The New York metro area had the second most clean-energy jobs (137,000), followed by Chicago (95,000), Boston (88,000) and the San Francisco area (87,000). The San Jose area had 31,000.

California’s nation-leading efforts in clean energy were highlighted in an E2 study issued Sept. 11 focusing on the state.

“California supports more renewable energy jobs than the next top 7 states combined and has twice as many jobs in energy efficiency than the No. 2 state (Texas),” the report said. “Combined with this market domination, big opportunities remain for clean energy job growth in the state with the California Energy Commission passing requirements for solar panels on all new homes built after 2020 and legislation passed and signed into law in September 2018 that sets the state on the path to 100-percent clean energy by 2045.”

 

Los Angeles-Orange County area leads the nation in clean-energy jobs, Inland Empire ranks 16th, by Martin Wisckol, The Orange County Register, September 26, 2018

Kaiser Permanente inks 180-MW wind, solar PPA with NextEra Energy

September 11 (Renewables Now) – US health insurance and medical care firm Kaiser Permanente announced on Monday it has signed a contract to buy 180 MW of new wind and solar power from NextEra Energy Resources LLC.

The electricity will come from a 131-MW solar photovoltaic (PV) park in California’s eastern Riverside County and a 50-MW wind farm that will be constructed across the border in Arizona, feeding its output to California’s power network. The power purchase agreement (PPA) will also enable the construction of a battery storage facility in Riverside County with a capacity of 110 MW.

The non-profit healthcare consortium expects the contracted capacity to be commissioned in 2020 and 2021, while it will start receiving associated renewable energy credits in 2019. Via the PPA, it anticipates to start using more than 1 million MWh of renewable electricity each year and thus become the largest purchaser of renewable energy in the US healthcare sector.

The agreement complements Kaiser Permanente’s goal to become carbon neutral in 2020. Since 2008, the company, which is now a member of the RE100 initiative, has cut its net greenhouse gas emissions by 29%. “By investing in renewable energy and becoming carbon neutral, Kaiser Permanente is helping to prevent climate-related illness for people worldwide,” said chairman and CEO Bernard J Tyson.

 

Kaiser Permanente inks 180-MW wind, solar PPA with NextEra Energy, by Renewables Now Staff, Renewable Now, September 11, 2018.