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Black Mountain Energy Storage gets approval for 300MW/1,400MWh Wisconsin BESS project


Developer Black Mountain Energy Storage has won approval from the City of Milwaukee for a battery storage project which will be the biggest in the US state of Wisconsin so far.

Following a meeting on 25 September, the City Plan Commission of Milwaukee made a resolution giving approval to plans for the facility, published two days later and signed by commission chair Chris Lee.

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Black Mountain Energy Storage’s project will be built on around 10 acres of a 32-acres long-vacant plot of land in a residentially zoned area, with residential land to the north and east and an industrial zone to its west and south.

The project, given the name American Pharaoh BESS by the developer, will be sited on Milwaukee’s North 84th Street and connected to the Granville substation of utility We Energies, drawing energy from the grid at off-peak times and inputting it again when needed.

Plans submitted by Black Mountain Energy Storage, its civil engineering partner Westwood and legal counsel Armundsen Davis in August put the system’s sizing at 300MW output.

Black Mountain Energy Storage CEO Rhett Bennett told that this will be a 4-hour duration system, with 1,200MWh energy storage capacity.

It will participate in the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) markets for wholesale energy and ancillary services, Bennett said, on a grid which is becoming a growing opportunity for battery storage. In addition, the developer “may pursue capacity contracts with the system operator or local utilities to ensure reliable electric supply”.

“In recent years, the confluence of coal retirements and a profusion of intermittent renewable supply have created challenges in managing a reliable electric network that requires additions of modern flexible resources,” Bennett said of the fundamentals underpinning MISO’s growing attractiveness as a market.

“Energy storage – which can both shave the peaks and fill the troughs with instantaneous response times exemplifies flexibility and will help to ensure reliable electric supply is maintained far into the future.”

MISO spans all or part of 14 different states, and part of Canada, representing an addressable market of considerable potential.

Meanwhile, the majority of projects in development within Wisconsin so far, are by its main utilities including We Energy and Alliant Energy. Nearly all are solar-plus-storage plants, with American Pharaoh a rare early example of a standalone energy storage facility.

A relatively new company, Black Mountain Energy Storage has become known in the industry for selling on in-development projects to major names, including a 700MW portfolio sold to banking group UBS in August 2022, 400MW/600MWh sold to developer Cypress Creek Renewables a month earlier and a 490MW portfolio sold to Peregrine Energy Solutions, a developer backed by asset manager Castlelake this year, all of which were in Texas’ ERCOT market.

Asked by if this project would be sold on to other developers, or kept in Black Mountain Energy’s own portfolio to own and operate, CEO Bennett said that the company is currently “evaluating our path forward with the project” but that it has not considered “any specific sale opportunities” thus far.

According to reporting by local news outlet Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Black Mountain Energy Storage manager of development Jackson Hughes told the City Plan Commission the project’s total cost would be around US$450 million.

Next steps for Black Mountain Energy Storage following granting of local approval include submitting plans to the regulatory Public Service Commission (PSC) of Wisconsin for approval and engaging the City of Milwaukee to collaborate on plans for managing stormwater at the site, CEO Rhett Bennett said.

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