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Stem Inc solar-storage project on Massachusetts landfill site will play into New England ISO markets

Another solar-plus-storage project on a former municipal landfill site in Massachusets, executed by Kearsage with NEC. Image: Kearsage.

Stem Inc has completed a front-of-the-meter solar-plus-storage project in Massachusetts that will participate in New England’s wholesale markets run by system operator New England ISO.

The company is better known for deploying behind-the-meter battery storage for commercial and industrial (C&I) customers, using Stem’s proprietary artificial intelligence (AI) platforms and software to coordinate peak shaving to help customers save money on electricity costs while also aggregating the batteries to use in revenue-generating opportunities such as grid services markets.

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However the company also began working in the utility-scale solar-plus-storage market since mid-2019, focusing on the Massachusetts market with the state’s favourable clean energy policies including the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) programme among its main drivers.

Stem Inc initially targeted 28.2MWh of storage paired with solar as it entered the market. In 2020, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker also introduced the Clean Peak Standard, whereby a proportion of electricity on the grid at all times must be considered ‘clean’. In June 2020, Stem Inc said that adding smartly optimised energy storage to solar projects in Massachusetts can boost project revenues by 50%, as it completed another 8MWh project. 

The new project is located on a landfill site in Haverhill, Mass. and pairs 3.6MW of solar PV with 2MW / 9MWh AC-coupled battery storage. Like all of Stem’s projects, it uses the company’s Athena software solution. Athena will perform a multitude of functions, including forecasting the wholesale market opportunities ahead and supporting compliance with the federal investment tax credit incentive conditions.

The project has been delivered for the project’s owner and operator, developer and financier Kearsage Energy, which has been partnered with Stem since 2019 and previously executed a similar project on a landfill site in Amesbury, Mass. with now-defunct technology provider NEC Energy Solutions. California-headquartered Stem Inc had actually formed a high-profile partnership with Massachusetts-headquartered NEC ES to mutually expand each others' market reach and execute projects together on either coast of the US shortly before the latter company said it was exiting the industry. Kearsage develops its energy projects on municipal brownfield site land which is not suitable for redevelopment under other uses.

Meanwhile the local city of Haverhill will benefit by realising energy savings and energy infrastructure costs savings, as well as earning money from the land lease and tax payments of around US$3.9 million over the project’s expected lifetime.

Kearsage and Stem are currently also working on two other front-of-the-meter battery and solar projects in the state, with the three projects having a combined investment value of more than US$6 million, Stem Inc said in a press release.

Stem Inc is one of a number of companies in the energy storage space and related fields currently looking to go publicly listed through combination with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). Stem said in December last year that the deal to combine with SPAC Star Peak Energy Transition Corp to list on the New York Stock Exchange could be worth as much as US$608 million.

When announcing the Haverhill solar-plus-storage project this week, Stem Inc said that the deal is “on track” for completion in the first quarter of this year. In an exclusive Guest Blog for this week, Charles Lesser, a finance expert and partner at cleantech consultancy Apricum, said that the ‘SPAC track’ can help companies considered to have strong growth potential but lack the capital to scale up — but the rapid growth nature of the financial instrument can come with plenty of risks too. 

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