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New solar plants equipped with electricity-storage capacity are proliferating across the U.S.

June 04, 2018

S&P Global Market Intelligence ($):

The solar energy industry has achieved its long-time quest to become cost-competitive with conventional power across wide swaths of the United States. Now it is on to a new mission: saving that energy for later.

Large-scale solar power plants coupled with energy storage systems are multiplying in the U.S., as developers and grid operators seek to smooth the variable output of solar plants by storing the electricity they produce for peak power demand in the evening. At least 51 such hybrid systems 1 MW and larger are online or planned, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data. Operational systems total 783 MW of solar capacity tied to 492 MW of storage for various periods of time, while planned projects account for 3,228 MW of solar integrated with 2,888 MW of storage.

Many of these solar-plus-storage projects are concentrated in the Southwest. Hawaii and the Northeast also have multiple projects planned or underway. Beyond known projects with identifiable developers, many more solar-plus-storage power plants are earlier in the development process. Grid operator interconnection queues and recent responses to utility requests for proposals show several thousand megawatts of additional potential.

In response to Xcel Energy Inc.’s recent request for proposals, for instance, developers pitched 57 projects in Colorado for more than 10,000 MW of battery-backed photovoltaics. The California ISO’s generator interconnection queue, as of May 24, showed 16 projects coupling 3,340 MW of solar PV with 2,532 MW of batteries. Another 14 solar-plus-storage projects with a combined maximum output of more than 5,000 MW were exploring interconnection in Arizona Public Service Co.’s territory, as of April 4. Additional large-scale battery-backed solar projects are under study in the ISO New England, New Mexico and PJM Interconnection.

“I see a future with more battery and solar combinations,” Jeff Burke, director of resource planning at APS, said in an interview.

On new energy frontier, solar-plus-storage plants proliferate

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