Leeward signs another solar-plus-storage PPA with a California community energy supplier

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Leeward completed the acquisition of a large portion of First Solar’s 10GW project development business in January. Pictured is First Solar’s Agua Caliente Solar Project in Yuma, Arizona. Image: First Solar.

US renewable energy developer Leeward Renewable Energy has entered into a long-term power purchase agreement (PPA) for a solar-plus-storage facility it is preparing to construct in Kern County, California. 

Off-taker for the 15-year PPA deal is Valley Clean Energy, one of California’s non-profit Community Choice Aggregator (CCA) energy supplier groups. Just under a third of electricity demand for Valley Clean Energy’s 125,000 customers in California’s Yolo County will be covered by output from the 72MW solar PV plant, which is combined with 36MW / 144MWh of battery energy storage.

Construction on the plant, called Willow Springs 3, is set to begin in December this year and it is scheduled to begin delivering energy to the CCA by December 2023. 

Leeward will own and operate Willow Springs 3. The renewables and storage developer is a subsidiary of an investment arm of Canadian pension fund OMERS, called OMERS Infrastructure. 

Leeward sprung out of the wind power industry and a big majority of its portfolio of projects already constructed and in development are wind. However in the last three years it has stepped up its activities in solar PV development and now energy storage significantly since its acquisition by OMERS. 

In January this year, our sister site PV Tech reported that US vertically-integrated solar company First Solar sold a 10GW portfolio of PV projects in development to Leeward Renewable Energy. More recently, parent company OMERS took a big step into the Australian renewables sector this month, buying up a 49% stake in the Australian renewable energy platform of utility-scale solar developer Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV)

Community Choice Aggregators show appetite for solar-plus-storage

Meanwhile, California’s CCAs appear to be becoming prolific off-takers for renewables projects, solar-plus-storage in particular. The new PPA for Willow Springs 3 is Leeward’s fourth solar deal with a CCA, the company said. As part of the contract, Leeward has committed hiring from the local workforce for the project. 

In early October, this site reported that another CCA, Peninsula Clean Energy, signed a 15-year PPA with Leeward for Chaparral Solar Facility, also in Kern County, which combines 102MW of PV with 52MW / 208MWh of battery storage

This was just the latest in a run of CCA deals and procurements reported by this site, with other notable recent examples including a joint procurement for 778MW of renewable generation with 118.75MW of battery storage by Central Coast Community Energy and Silicon Valley Clean Energy and San Diego Community Power’s PPA with developer BayWa r.e. for a 70MW PV plant with a 280MWh DC-coupled battery energy storage system (BESS). 

There have been plenty more and a group of CCAs is currently running a Request for Proposals (RfP) for long-duration energy storage resources. The 500MW RfP is thought to be the first of its kind anywhere in the world. 

For Valley Clean Energy, this appears to be its fourth solar-plus-storage off-take deal, all of which are for PV projects with four-hour duration battery storage. The CCA is targeting a 100% carbon-neutral portfolio by 2030, way ahead of California’s already ambitious 100% clean energy by 2045 policy target. 

Along with 20-year PPAs with developers of two smaller projects, Putah Creek Energy Farm (3MWac solar PV, 3MW / 12MWh lithium iron phosphate BESS) and Gibson Solar (20MW solar PV, 6.5MW / 26MWh BESS), Valley Clean Energy has contracted a 20-year PPA with NextEra Energy Resources for Resurgence 1, a 90MWac solar farm with 75MW / 300MWh of battery storage.

In late September the CCA said it had begun receiving a 50MW share of power from a 250MW solar farm being built as part of a master-planned California clean energy park in Kings County which could ultimately host 2GW of renewables resources. 

Earlier this year Valley Clean Energy became a member of a joint powers authority (JPA) which enables it to combine its purchasing power with nine other aggregator groups, representing more than two million customers. 

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