Approval in Nevada for large-scale solar-plus-storage projects to replace coal

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Rendering of how Gemini Solar Project, which Primergy is already building in Nevada, will look. Image: Primergy.

Two clean energy projects aimed at replacing a retiring Nevada coal power plant look set to go ahead, with their sale to utility NV Energy having been approved by regulators.

With the North Valmy Generating Station in Winnemucca, Nevada scheduled for retirement, utility NV Energy needs to replace it by 2025. The company signed contracts with renewables developer Primergy to purchase two solar-plus-storage facilities totalling 600MW of solar PV paired with 480MW of battery storage.

Primergy said yesterday that the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada (PUCN) has given its final approval to the purchase of the projects, which the developer owns. A Built Transfer Agreement has been entered into by the two parties. 

Called Iron Point and Hot Pot Solar, the two systems are in Nevada’s sparsely populated Humboldt County, about 400 miles east of the California county of the same name. 

Primergy, which is a portfolio company of clean energy transition-focused investment management group Qunibrook Infrastructure Partners, expects construction to begin in the second half of this year. 

The majority of work will be carried out by unionised labour from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, with about 800 jobs to be created during the busiest stages of construction. 

Iron Point pairs 250MWac of solar PV with 200MW battery storage, with an expected commissioning date of December 2023. 

Hot Pot Solar is a 350MWac solar PV plant with a 280MW battery energy storage system (BESS), expected to be in service a year after Iron Point. 

Energy-Storage.news enquired to Primergy and owner Quinbrook to learn the capacity of the battery systems in megawatt-hour terms but did not receive a reply in time for publication. 

As reported by Energy-Storage.news in June 2021 as the two projects were announced and shortly before Primergy and NV Energy submitted the purchase agreement to the PUCN for consideration, one of North Valmy’s two generating units retired in 2019 and the second is set for retirement in 2025. NV Energy came to that decision together with its partner at the plant, Idaho Power. 

At that time, NV Energy also proposed the construction of 66MW of standalone battery storage across three more plants to store energy generated at off-peak times for outputting to the grid during the peaks. 

Nevada is targeting net zero emissions by 2050 and NV Energy already surpassed an initial 1,000MW energy storage target it was set by the PUCN in March 2020.

Primergy already building one of world’s biggest solar-storage projects in the state

“These projects demonstrate the important role that solar and storage can play in replacing coal generating plants with clean and low-cost renewable energy,” Primergy CEO Ty Daul said.

“Our portfolio in Nevada represents a substantial multi-billion dollar investment in new energy infrastructure for the state. We are proud to be bringing reliable, safe and cost-effective carbon free power to homes and businesses across Nevada.”

Primergy, launched by Quinbrook in 2020, now has a portfolio in Nevada of 1,300MWac of solar PV and 3,330MWh of BESS. 

The developer is also currently building one of the world’s biggest solar-plus-storage facilities in Nevada, the Gemini Solar Project. Combining 690MW of solar PV with 380MW/1,400MWh of battery storage, the US Department of Interior waved through approval for Gemini in May 2020. 

Primergy broke ground on it in January 2021. Worth about US$1.2 billion, Gemini Solar Project is scheduled to begin operations in late 2023, Primergy said yesterday. 

NV Energy — part of investor Warrant Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy group portfolio — signed a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with Primergy for that project. 

The utility company began a five-year long “ambitious solar-plus-storage boom” in 2019, our sister site PV Tech reported at the time as plans were revealed, with NV Energy turning to Quinbrook along with integrated energy company EDF and solar developer 8minute Solar Energy to build an initial 1.2GW of PV and 590MW of battery storage.

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