July 14, 2020 Read More →

French developer sees opportunity in using U.S. coal plant transmission infrastructure for solar projects

Energy News Network:

A utility-scale solar developer is acquiring land rights near U.S. coal-fired power plants, hoping the facilities will close sooner than expected and open up lucrative transmission connections.

Photosol US, a subsidiary of a French company, has purchased options near plants in Nebraska and Kansas, as well as the San Juan Generating Station in northern New Mexico. While the San Juan plant has approval from state regulators to shut down in 2022, the Nebraska and Kansas plants, completed in the early 1980s, do not have retirement dates.

Josh Case, Photosol’s chief executive officer, intends to develop two arrays — one with 400 megawatts and one with 250 megawatts — on 5,000 acres he has under lease option near Nebraska’s Gerald Gentleman station. He pays an annual fee to maintain the option to lease the acreage.

Photosol has applied to the Southwest Power Pool for interconnections for those projects as well as two 125-megawatt arrays near the Holcomb power plant in western Kansas. He has options to lease 2,400 acres near the Holcomb plant. The Nebraska arrays would include 325 MW of battery storage.

Case has purchased lease options on about 30,000 acres across the country, including 4,200 near the San Juan Generating Station in New Mexico. The state’s utility regulators in April gave the plant’s owners permission to shutter the remaining two units, with a capacity of about 850 MW, on June 30, 2022. Two other units were closed in 2017.

Karl Cates, an analyst for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, called Photosol “a small but serious company.” Case said it has developed 382 MW of solar power in France. The company’s current U.S. business model — which effectively leapfrogs electricity production from coal to renewables without a natural-gas stopover — is right on the cutting edge, Cates said. Utilities in Arizona, Colorado and Florida are trying to develop renewable generation resources to replace coal plants they want to close. And in New Mexico, regulators a couple weeks ago urged the majority owner of the coal-fired San Juan plant to replace any needed generation with solar and storage rather than natural gas.

[Karen Uhlenhuth]

More: Solar firm buying land rights near coal plants with eye toward transmission

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