America’s largest solar and battery project approved in Los Angeles

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The Los Angeles Department of Water & Power voted unanimously to allow construction on the United States’ largest solar and battery energy storage system.

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The Los Angeles Department of Water & Power has voted unanimously to approve the Power Purchase Agreement contract which will allow construction to proceed on the Eland Solar and Storage Center, the United States’ – and the world’s – largest solar and battery energy storage system.

The 400 MW/1.2 GWh project being developed by 8minute Solar Energy failed to be approved in August, but after two weeks in which the company worked with various parties to guarantee that the project will be built with union labor under a project labor agreement, the LA Department of Water and Power’s (LADWP) Board of Commissioners were satisfied and voted to move forward.

“The climate crisis has never been more dire, but the solutions have never been clearer or cheaper — and Los Angeles is investing in renewable energy and cleaning our air as part of my DWP reform agenda,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti.

“The Eland Solar and Storage Center will help us keep the lights on without the help of dirty fossil fuels — even when the sun isn’t shining — and power our progress toward a low-carbon, green-energy future.”

“Eland Solar and Storage Center will offer reliable, cost-competitive energy as we expand solar and other renewable resources to meet our aggressive climate change goals,” added LADWP Interim General Manager Martin L. Adams. “Among other benefits, the project will bridge the gap between day and night, dramatically increasing the operational value of the project.”

Set to be built on 1,000 hectares in Kern County, California, the Eland Solar and Storage Center will be made up of two large-scale solar facilities with a cumulative capacity of 400MW and a battery energy storage system which will be able to store up to 1,200 MWh of energy. Together, the project will hold enough energy to power the equivalent of 283,330 LA homes.

“Today was a big win for the city of Los Angeles, the people of California and the renewable energy industry as well,” said Jeff McKay, VP of marketing for 8minute.

“The project offers a glimpse of the future, with zero-carbon sources providing energy cheaper than fossil fuels to households throughout Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley — at the lowest combined solar and storage prices on record.

While further final regulatory approval is still needed, today was a big step in ensuring this project becomes a reality, and we feel very strongly that this project is a win-win for everyone involved.”

The timing of the announcement also serves to hint at a way forward for the State of California which is looking a potential grid reliability shortfall in its southern boundaries.

A perfect storm of nuclear power plant closures, natural-gas system constraints, the pending closure of Once-Through Cooling (OTC) plants along the coast, and projections of decreased state electricity import have led state grid operator CAISO and utility Suothern California Edison to project gigawatts’ worth of reliability shortfallsby 2021.

In turn, the California Public Utilities Commission last week issued an “all-source” 2.5 GW electric system reliability procurement for 2021-2023 which could further spur development of similarly large-scale solar and battery storage projects as the Eland project.

The procurement effort will run concurrently with continued analysis of the potential threat of grid shortfalls, but as the proposal (PDF) notes, “given the imminence of the 2021 system reliability needs, there is not time to complete that analysis, allow additional input and vetting from parties, and still have procurement take place in time to meet a potential shortfall in the timeframe of Summer 2021.”

Projects such as the Eland Solar and Storage Center are likely to be viewed favourably in the future as they provide a combination of renewable energy generation combined with on-demand electricity storage which, in tandem, serves to meet the need for continued clean energy capacity additions while also providing grid reliability services.

With battery prices plummeting and solar & storage facilities gaining greater credibility as more are approved and enter operation, a lot more of these hybrid plants are likely to see the light of day – especially in sunny Southern California.

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