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Talen Energy hires Key Capture Energy for first BESS project in IPP’s ‘strategic transformation’

By Andy Colthorpe
Key Capture Energy’s KCE New York 1 grid-scale battery project. Image: Key Capture Energy.

Talen Energy, a US independent power producer (IPP) with a 13GW portfolio of generation assets, has contracted energy storage developer Key Capture Energy to install a battery storage system at the site of a coal power plant in Maryland.

While the demonstration project planned for construction adjacent to Talen’s H.A. Wagner coal plant in Baltimore is relatively small at 20MW, the project marks an important step in the IPP’s strategic transformation into becoming a renewable energy and digital infrastructure growth platform with a focus on work that meets environmental, societal and governance (ESG) criteria.

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In April, Talen Energy announced it had formed a joint venture (JV) with renewables developer Pattern Energy to develop 1.4GW of solar and wind projects, mostly on the footprint of Talen’s existing power plants sites, which include fossil fuels and a nuclear plant that play into wholesale generation markets in the Mid-Atlantic region, Texas, Montana and other locations in the US.

Then in May, reported that Talen was also developing a 1GW portfolio of battery energy storage assets as part of that self-proclaimed company transformation. Meanwhile it is retiring some of its 3.5GW fleet of coal power plants, including the H.A Wagner plant, which is scheduled to close by the end of 2025. In addition to its battery and renewables build-out, the company is also seeking to transition some of its thermal power plant assets to running on cleaner fuels.

The giga-scale battery portfolio will range from 20MW to 300MW systems across three US states, and are expected to be developed within the next five years. Talen will take advantage of the existing grid interconnection points as well as transmission and distribution infrastructure at its fossil fuel plant sites.

“Our partnership with KCE on the H.A. Wagner battery storage demonstration project is instrumental to helping Talen advance our clean energy transition and continue to contribute to grid stability and resiliency, which is key for those within Baltimore’s BGE transmission zone,” Talen president Alex Hernandez said.

“We believe that this initial project will provide a model that can be replicated throughout our national footprint. We look forward to working with KCE as we continue to convert legacy fossil plants and shift to the batteries of tomorrow.”

Key Capture Energy (KCE) is a developer of standalone, utility-scale battery energy storage system (BESS) projects around the US, headquartered in Albany in Upstate New York. It executed the first 20MW utility-scale battery project in that state a couple of years ago and has also developed projects in regions including New England and Texas, targeting having over 1GW of battery projects of its own in operation in those three states by the end of 2023. The technology agnostic developer has worked, or is working with, system integrators and technology providers including NEC ES, Powin Energy and Mitsubishi Power.

Key Capture CEO Jeff Bishop was interviewed for ‘US energy storage in 2021: Notes from a maturing industry,’ an article published in our quarterly technical journal PV Tech Power at the beginning of this year. In it, he said that KCE has made the business case for energy storage work by looking at the energy system landscape and figuring out “what the grid needs in five to 10 years from now”.

As with its Talen Maryland project and as it has done in Texas, KCE will typically go into a new market deploying 10MW or 20MW projects initially to figure out how a market works, how to get comfortable with revenues, market structures, regulatory environment and so on before considering larger projects. Bishop said this week in a press release that his company was “extremely pleased” to be working to develop and construct the first battery storage demonstration project next to the H.A. Wagner coal plant.

“The U.S. has more than 200,000MW of coal fired generation in operation today; with market and political forces impacting these generators, and increasing amounts of intermittent wind and solar being constructed across the country, there will continue to be a need for capacity that has historically been provided to the U.S. electric grid by coal, natural gas, hydro and nuclear,” Jeff Bishop said.

“We are excited to be working on the front lines and to be participating in this incredible transition to a clean energy future, as Talen continues to generate value and invest in the communities where they operate.”

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