ROUNDUP: Solar-plus-storage in California and Iowa, ex-Greensmith CEO hired by Energy Vault

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Energy Vault’s 5MW mechanical storage demonstrator project in Switzerland. The company’s new division will roll out software-based platform services. Image: Energy Vault.

5 November 2021: Leeward starts building out 10GW First Solar portfolio with California solar-plus-storage project 

Developer Leeward Renewable Energy has started construction on a 100MW solar PV plant paired with a 20MW / 50MWh battery energy storage system (BESS) in California. 

The Rabbitrush Solar project is in California’s Kern County, a hotbed for large-scale renewable energy facilities, as well as where much of the state’s fossil fuel extraction industry is based. Rabbitrush is expected to bring 300 unionised jobs to the area during construction as well as creating some long-term operations employees. 

The project is the first to begin construction in Leeward’s 10GW portfolio of PV projects in development that it purchased from vertically-integrated solar company First Solar at the beginning of this year. The power plant will use First Solar’s thin-film solar modules, manufactured in the US. 

Construction has started through Leeward’s engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor, McCarthy Building Companies. Off-takers for the project’s energy are two California community choice aggregator (CCA) energy suppliers, Central Coast Community Energy (CCCE) and Silicon Valley Clean Energy (SVCE) under 15-year power purchase agreements (PPAs).

CCAs are rapidly becoming prolific signees of PPAs with renewable developers in California, including many solar-plus-storage project contracts. This includes their share of a 11.5GW energy resources buildout required by California legislature by 2026.

Leeward itself just announced in October another 15-year PPA deal with CCA Valley Clean Energy for a 72MW PV plant with 36MW / 144MWh of battery storage

Rabbitrush’s construction will be completed by the end of July 2022 and commercial operation is expected to begin by the end of August next year. 

5 November 2021: Utility Alliant Energy to acquire Iowa solar-plus-storage plant from NextEra

Public utility holding company Alliant Energy intends to acquire a large-scale solar-plus-storage project in development by NextEra Energy Resources in Iowa.

Alliant is planning to reach close to 50% renewable generation in the midwestern US state by 2025. To do so, its 1,300MW of existing wind resources will be paired with 400MW of utility-scale solar PV, as detailed by the company in its ‘Clean energy blueprint in Iowa’. 

The first tranche of this solar procurement will be the acquisition of 200MW of solar energy and 75MW of battery storage from NextEra’s Duane Arnold Solar Project the renewable generation company is seeking to develop and construct in Iowa’s Linn County. 

Made up of two phases, a 50MW solar PV plant and a 150MW solar PV and 75MW, four-hour battery system (300MWh), the facility is scheduled to begin operations by the end of 2024. It will be at what used to be the Duane Arnold nuclear power plant and grid connection and power transmission infrastructure is already at the site. 

Alliant said it has filed its plan to acquire to own and operate the Duane Arnold Solar Project with the Iowa Utilities Board. The project will create up to 200 new construction jobs and create up to US$260 million economic value for the state, including US$150 million for Linn County. The utility will file plans to procure the remaining 200MW of solar at a later date. 

5 November 2021: Former Greensmith CEO joins gravity storage startup’s new solutions division

Gravity and kinetic energy storage startup Energy Vault has hired John Jung, the former CEO and president of Greensmith Energy, to lead its new Energy Vault Solutions (EVS) division. 

Switzerland-headquartered Energy Vault, which is developing technology based on listing, lowering and swimming giant weights from high towers to store and release energy, is targeting public listing through a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) merger

It said yesterday that EVS will be a provider of a technology neutral energy storage management and integration platform, using artificial intelligence (AI) and software optimisation algorithms to enable the integration of flexible energy assets and allow them to be dispatched as required. 

As CEO and president of Greensmith Energy until its acquisition by Wärtsilä in 2017, John Jung oversaw a California-headquartered turnkey energy storage system integrator company which focused heavily on its software platforms. 

A pioneer of large-scale battery storage, particularly in key US markets like California and Texas, Greensmith created the Greensmith Energy Management Software (GEMS) platform, which was part a major part of the appeal for Wärtsilä, similarly allowing energy storage systems — and energy assets of all kinds — to be optimised in both their technical as well as market-facing operation

“In addition to our proprietary gravity energy storage technology, Energy Vault Solutions will enable us to address the market need for energy management software solutions capable of orchestrating both generation and storage assets,” Energy Vault CEO Robert Piconi said.

“I am delighted to join Energy Vault and lead Energy Vault Solutions to bring to market a best-in-class energy storage management and integration platform that maximises customers’ economic return during the transition to a carbon free grid,” John Jung said.

“Our software platform is designed to serve as a front-end of any energy system and our data analytics layer supports both internal and external opportunities to control, optimise and manage assets – and deliver long-term value to our customers.”

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