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Vistra’s 350MW Moss Landing expansion coming online this summer in California


Vistra Energy’s expansion of Moss Landing Energy Storage Facility in California, the world’s largest battery storage facility, is due for completion this summer.

The Texas-headquartered energy generation and retail company reported its first quarter 2023 results yesterday (9 May). It recorded net income of US$698 million for the quarter, and ongoing operations adjusted EBITDA of US$554 million, declaring a second quarter dividend of US$0.204 per share of common stock to come at the end of June.

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Likely to be of most interest to readers of in amongst Vistra’s various announcements about its diversified portfolio in the results is the news that the 350MW Phase III expansion of Moss Landing Energy Storage Facility is “on track to come online this summer,” according to CEO Jim Burke.

That will add to the company’s 3,408MW of low carbon generation and energy storage online already, 2,400MW of which is accounted for by the Comanche Peak nuclear power plant in Somervell County, Texas.

The Moss Landing project, developed on the site of a former gas power plant, started going online with the 300MW/1,200MWh first phase in 2020, followed up by Phase II, which comprises a separate 100MW/400MWh battery energy storage system (BESS).

Phase III is another 4-hour duration lithium-ion BESS addition, meaning the newly added 350MW of output corresponds to another 1,400MWh of capacity at the site. That brings the Moss Landing BESS’ total power and energy storage capacity to 750MW/3,000MWh.

Construction on the current phase began in January 2022. The site boasts enough land and grid connection capacity to be able to host up to 1.5GW/6GWh of BESS, Vistra has said previously.

The project was among the first 4-hour duration large-scale battery facilities in California – and the world – to get capacity contracts for resource adequacy, which is the means by which utilities and other load-serving entities on the state’s CAISO grid have to ensure reliable and stable electricity supplies. Resource adequacy is the primary contracting structure through which the state has become a global leader in energy storage deployment.

Vistra’s offtake deal for capacity at Moss Landing Energy Storage Facility was signed with investor-owned utility (IOU) Pacific Gas & Electric all the way back in 2018. Perhaps a little confusingly for casual observers, PG&E actually has a 182.5MW/730MWh BESS project at Moss Landing, that it owns, called Elkhorn Battery.

PG&E’s contract with Vistra for MOSS350, the Phase III expansion, was approved by regulators in April 2022, around the time Elkhorn Battery went into service.

Neither project at Moss Landing has been without some issues and challenges in its early years of operation. Overheating incidents resulted in both phases of the Vistra BESS assets being temporarily taken offline between September 2021 and June 2022, while Elkhorn Battery had its own overheating incident in September 2022. Those incidents have since been resolved and new safety measures put into place to the satisfaction of local authorities.

Ameresco’s delayed portfolio for SCE to start coming online this summer too

Meanwhile, Ameresco said a few days ago that its BESS project for another of California’s IOUs is nearing the finish line.

Ameresco was awarded a contract to deliver four BESS assets totalling 537.5MW/2,150MWh for Southern California Edison (SCE) in late 2021, for rapid and urgent commissioning by the end of 2022. As has been widely reported by sites including this one however, numerous factors including COVID-19 lockdowns in China and weather-related issues caused delays.

These had been so impactful that energy efficiency and renewable energy provider Ameresco sought to renegotiate some contract terms with its customer and invoke a force majeure clause.

After previously claiming the company and SCE’s teams were working together “round the clock” to get the projects online to its extended deadline, Ameresco said in February that it would get the four sites to “substantial completion” by summer this year.

That has again slipped, with the company citing unprecedented heavy rainfall in California slowing progress down on one of the systems. Ameresco said it was in discussions with SCE on the likely duration of the delay, and is “continuing discussions regarding the applicability and scope of any force majeure relief,” while its relationship with the utility “remains cooperative,” Ameresco CEO George Sakellaridis said.

It did however reach a recent agreement with SCE for the utility to accelerate US$125 million payable on completion of project milestones as the utility also requested a pushback of the in-service date.

Rather than all four coming to substantial completion by summer, as was expected back in February, two of them will reach that stage Ameresco said as the company reported its latest quarterly results at the beginning of this month.

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