California community energy group signs PPA for 400MW / 540MWh solar-plus-storage plant

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Solar PV panels at an existing 8minute Solar Energy project in California. Image: 8minute Solar Energy.

Clean Power Alliance, one of California’s community choice aggregator (CCA) groups has signed a 15-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with developer 8minute Solar Energy for the output of a massive solar-plus-storage plant.

CCAs give residents in selected parts of the US the opportunity to choose where their power is sourced and how it is generated. Clean Power Alliance procures electricity generation from low carbon sources and utilises the electricity network infrastructure of Southern California Edison, one of the state’s three main investor-owned utility (IOU) groups, to deliver it. reported in August that Clean Power Alliance signed a deal to off-take power from a 100MW solar and 50MW battery hybrid power plant in San Bernadino County that was recently acquired by Goldman Sachs Renewable Power. Several other CCA deals of a similar nature have been brokered in the past couple of years, including East Bay Community Energy and California Choice Energy Authority (CalChoice). A 20MW / 80MWh standalone battery storage project under development by Hecate Grid is being supplied with equipment and systems by Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Americas (MHPS) with Hecate looking to enter into long-term contracts for using the system with a CCA which was not named in July, when the award of the project to MHPS was announced

The deal with 8minute Solar Energy, announced yesterday, is thought to be the biggest project contracted to serve a CCA to date. The Rexford 1 Solar & Storage Centre, in Tulare County, will combine 400MWdc (300MWac) of solar PV capacity with 180MW / 540MWh of battery energy storage.

Set to become operational in 2023, 8minute said the capacity of the battery will enable dispatchable solar electricity even on cloudy days or at night. The plant is being built on “low-productivity farmland” that is privately-owned, is expected to create more than 400 unionised employment roles during construction as well as many more indirect job opportunities, while the developer also claimed it will contribute more than US$200 million to the local economy over its operational lifetime. On a more general note, various groups have pointed out the potential role for solar-plus-storage, both on a distributed and large-scale level, to help provide energy security in California as the state suffers a major energy crisis. The world's largest lithium-ion battery storage system project to be completed to date – a 250MW / 250MWh system built by LS Power – was switched on in California just a few weeks ago.

“The recent blackouts and continued wildfires in California offer sobering proof of the urgent need for more renewable and reliable energy generation that both fortifies our grid and fights climate change – and large-scale solar paired with energy storage is the most efficient, lowest-cost way to achieve just that,” 8minute CEO Tom Buttgenbach said.

Having already delivered some 2GW of solar projects in total, 8minute said it has 18GW of solar-plus-storage now in the pipeline – which the company told back in June will include 24GWh of batteries. Big projects the company is working on include the Eland Solar & Storage Centre project for which a US$40/MWh PPA was signed in 2019. Eland includes 400MWac of solar and 300MW / 1,200MWh of storage, out in the Mojave Desert.

The developer is also working on the 400MW solar, 300MW / 1,200MWh battery hybrid resource project Eland Solar & Storage Center, complete with company logo on the battery plant in the artist’s rendering. Image: 8minute Solar Energy.

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