Alberta, Canada, “is a great place to do solar,” where the growth of renewable energy is creating need to deploy energy storage for its integration to the grid.
That’s the view of Francesco Cardi, VP of development at Westbridge Renewable Energy, a developer which has just sold 1.4GW of in-development solar PV projects to Greek industrial conglomerate Mytilineos.
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Made up of five sizeable power plant sites, two of which are expected to progress to ready-to-build status by the end of this year, as reported by our colleagues at PV Tech last week, all of the portfolio projects are being planned for co-location with energy storage systems, the largest of which would be 200MW/400MWh and the rest half that size.
In a recent interview for our quarterly journal, PV Tech Power (Vol.35), Francesco Cardi and Westbridge special advisor Alex Dickinson discussed the projects with particular regard to their pairing with energy storage.
Dickinson explained that the solar PV and battery storage would share a common grid interconnection. With the solar grid connection only being utilised roughly for 11%-12% of the hours in the year, the battery has access to the grid for the majority of the time.
That means that in addition to selling the solar energy during daytime hours, the batteries can be monetised through providing services to the grid, via a “host of activities”.
“We do think it’s complimentary from a commercial point of view, not least that the batteries can offer the services that asynchronous generation can’t offer, [in other words], grid stabilisation,” Dickinson said.
“The main driver [for storage in Alberta] in my opinion is that storage is essentially following the need for, and is complementary to solar and to solve the intermittency of renewables,” Cardi said.
“Therefore, being Alberta, a leader in the solar and renewable energy space, the need for storage systems is manifesting most in this region to assist in the intermittency and in balancing; the grid services and the load of these renewable energy assets.”
Alberta’s electric system operator expected to open up market
However, at this stage, it isn’t entirely clear which services the batteries will be able to provide. The transmission system and wholesale market operator, Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO), is currently working through regulatory questions over a framework for participation by energy storage systems.
The AESO has only just completed a set of investigations into those topics in April, Dickinson said, with Westbridge Renewable Energy involved in the consultation process “with regard to things like revenue stacking, etc.”
“This would mean that asset owners and developers would be able to “get complimentary activities from the batteries under contract, rather than having to cubbyhole batteries into one pocket and solar into a different [pocket], so that you’re looking at the entire electricity grid stabilisation, which drives towards the low carbon economy and indeed to lower pricing.”
Alberta has become a “great place” for solar development due to the “straightforward, very well planned” approach the province has taken, Cardi said. It is also not a solar market in danger of saturation, with abundant land and existing transmission infrastructure between its major demand centres Edmund and Calgary.
Cardi said it is just a matter of time before regulations for energy storage catch up too, which is why Westbridge intends to add storage to its solar PV plants, but potentially at a later date.
Westbridge is targeting getting its first two projects, the ‘flagship’ Georgetown project, a 278MWdc PV plant with scope to add 100MW/200MWh of battery storage and Sunnynook, a 236MWdc PV plant with the same amount of storage, into construction early in 2024. It announced the fifth and newest addition to its development portfolio, Red Willow Project, combining 295MWp solar with 100MW/200MWh BESS, in February this year.
Each of its five announced projects have been going through the lengthy process of getting grid connection approval, and this week the company said Sunnynook has now followed Georgetown in getting Power Plant and Battery Storage approval, as well as a substation permit and license from the Alberta Utilities Commission.
Westbridge is aiming to then file applications with the regulator for interconnection approvals for Sunnynook in Q4 of this year, hopeful that it and Georgetown can reach ready-to-build status before the end of 2024.
Following the agreement to sell its five projects to Mytilineos developer subsidiary Metka, Westbridge Renewable Energy retains ownership of the project special purpose vehicle (SPV) companies until the deal closes. Francesco Cardi and Alex Dickinson described Westbridge as a developer in the classic sense, which will move on from projects once they transfer ownership at the stage when construction is ready to begin.
You can read more about Alberta and Ontario, Canada’s two leading provinces for energy storage development in PV Tech Power Vol.35, which is out now. Subscription to the quarterly journal, is included as part of the Energy-Storage.news Premium service. Every edition of PV Tech Power includes ‘Storage & Smart Power’, a dedicated section contributed by the Energy-Storage.news team.