Month: July 2019

BloombergNEF: Bullish on cost reductions, in line with others on global battery market forecast

BloombergNEF has predicted an exponential multiplying of non-pumped hydro energy storage installations around the world, culminating in nearly 3,000GWh of deployments by 2040.

The research firm has just produced its annual investment outlook report on the space, finding that 9GW / 17GWh of energy storage was deployed as of 2018 and forecasting this to rapidly grow to 1,095GW / 2,850GWh by the year 2040.

In short, energy storage “will become a practical alternative to new electricity generation [presumably meaning in combination with renewable or other distributed energy sources, although a BloombergNEF release did not make this clear], or network reinforcement”, while customer-sited behind-the-meter energy storage systems will more commonly provide network services.

In terms of expected battery demand, the firm gave a combined forecast of 4,584GWh for both electric transportation and stationary energy storage systems by 2040. Electric passenger vehicles “could make up a third of the global passenger vehicle fleet by then”, BloombergNEF said.

In March this year, the firm’s head of energy storage analysis, Logan Goldie-Scott had predicted that an ‘average’ lithium-ion battery pack could cost as low as US$62 per kWh by 2030, noting however that some companies will “undershoot” and price their packs even cheaper than that while others will come in with higher prices.

‘Further sharp declines’ in lithium-ion battery costs

Meanwhile, rival research group Navigant issued new analysis in June that predicted that cost declines may not happen as rapidly as some have forecast, but will nonetheless continue on an aggressive downward trajectory. From around US$139 per kWh this year, battery cells could fall to US$76 per kWh by 2030.

BloombergNEF’s release to media on its new outlook report did not offer forecasts on price guidance, but did say that there could be a further halving of battery cell cost per kilowatt-hour by 2030, which appears to reiterate Goldie-Scott’s previously issued forecast.

“Further sharp declines in the cost of lithium-ion batteries, on top of an 85% reduction in the 2010- 2018 period” would be a key factor in enabling that predicted 122-fold increase in installed base. Getting up to that 4,854GWh figure will require US$622 billion of investment.

Market leading regions, installs forecast roughly in line with rival analyst predictions

The company said it modelled the impact of demand taking off in the two distinct markets of electric transportation and stationary energy storage on an increasingly solar and wind-penetrated global electricity system.

“Two big changes this year are that we have raised our estimate of the investment that will go into energy storage by 2040 by more than US$40 billion, and that we now think the majority of new capacity will be utility-scale, rather than behind-the-meter at homes and businesses,” BloombergNEF energy storage analyst Yayoi Sekine said.

Logan Goldie-Scott said that developers and grids are putting in place new contract structures that are ushering in a “new era of dispatchable renewables”, with his team seeing renewables and solar-plus-storage in particular as a “major driver for battery build”.

China and the US will be the world’s leaders by 2040, BloombergNEF said, usurping current leader South Korea. This was also the conclusion of a recent report from another team of analysts, this time at Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables, which claimed that this overtaking could happen sooner rather than later, with the global superpowers dominating the market with a 54% share by 2024. Wood Mackenzie meanwhile offered its own prediction that after deploying 7GW / 12GWh in the five years up to 2018, global annual deployments will reach 63GW / 158GWh. Roughly speaking, that tallies with the BloombergNEF latest forecast, with 158GWh a year taking roughly 18 years to overshoot the 2040 BNEF predicted figure.

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ROUNDUP: WA utility picks ‘secure’ software, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ Japan demo, New CEO at Eos

W Australia state-owned utility gets ‘Secure’ on software to integrate solar, batteries

31 July 2019: A software-based switching solution provided to homeowners in Western Australia by utility Horizon Power will mitigate the impact of “limited solar hosting capacity” on the local grid, the company has said.

Software provider SwitchDin’s energy management solutions include ‘Secure Gateway Devices’, controllers that ensure customer-owned devices including solar PV panels and batteries “can be smoothly and securely integrated into the local grid’s operation,” SwitchDin CEO Dr Andrew Mears, said.

SwitchDin’s SGD will provide feed-in management, demand management and battery management capability for individual sites. It will provide Horizon Power with the ability to orchestrate these resources to maximise system-wide efficiency.

It means residential solar-plus-storage can be integrated into virtual power plant networks. Horizon Power is state government-owned and is seeking to overcome the “well recognised challenge” of “limited solar hosting capacity”. A Western Australia government taskforce was set to meet yesterday for a workshop to discuss a Distributed Energy Resources Roadmap for the state. 

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Delta Electronics combine gas, PV, batteries for Japan hybrid demonstrator

31 July 2019: A demonstration power plant at a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries-owned manufacturing facility in Japan will be equipped with lithium-ion battery storage for enabling “low-cost, environmentally friendly” distributed energy.

Delta Electronics has delivered the energy storage system, which includes a lithium-ion battery with a 4C charge rate. This makes it a potential direct source of power for electric vehicles (EVs) to charge as well.

Delta supplied a 331kWh containerised battery storage solution with DC bi-directional charge and discharge capabilities which can operate under high voltage and current safely. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries actually developed the batteries in Japan and assembled them in Taiwan, where Delta is also headquartered. Defat also supplied four 50kW PV inverters and four 125kW power conditioning systems with DC connection to the batteries as well as AC connection to the grid, again allowing for bi-directional power flows.

The hybrid’s battery will help integrate solar PV production along with a reciprocating engine, smoothing out fluctuations in solar production, while a press release stated that Delta is also developing “next-generation applications” for its storage range including virtual power plant (VPP), enabling self-consumption of solar and grid stabilisation functions.

“The system’s main advantage is its ability to stabilise the volatile output of renewable energy by combining three types of power sources, ultimately enabling low-cost power supply provided by an environmentally-friendly, multi-purpose distributed generation system,” a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries statement read.

Executive overhaul at zinc battery player Eos

30 July 2019: Aqueous zinc battery maker Eos Energy Storage has made three executive appointments, including a new CEO, CFO and Senior Commercial Advisor.

Two of the new appointments have come from GE group companies. New CEO Joe Mastrangelo was president and chief exec at GE Power’s Gas Power Systems division, joining the Eos board as an advisor in 2018. Meanwhile, new Senior Commercial Advisor Kevin Walsh was previously MD and head of US renewable energy for GE Energy Financial Services. New CFO Mack Treece is the former CEO of energy software company Viridity Energy Solutions before its sale to Ormat in 2017.

The company continues to follow its pilot deployment with efforts to commercialise and scale-up its technology. In June, reported that the company had just supplied two 120kWh systems in the US and was eyeing the UK market for possible opportunities. Eos has also said that a 40MWh project for developer Convergent Energy + Power, for which contracts were signed in 2015, is still going ahead. 

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Los Angeles County gas plant to be partially replaced by batteries and solar

An aging gas power plant in Glendale, California will soon be repowered by a combination of distributed solar, energy storage, and geothermal energy.

Municipal utility Glendale Water & Power (GWP) received approval to move ahead with the project from Glendale City Council on July 23. Its original proposal, which consisted primarily of thermal generation and battery storage, was rejected last year.

The new proposal involves retrofitting the Grayson Power Plant with a 75MW / 300MWh battery energy storage system and up to 50MW of distributed energy resources, which will include solar photovoltaic systems and energy efficiency and demand response programs. The plant will retain 93MW of thermal generation from up to five combustion turbines to meet peak demand.

The Grayson plant current combustion engines are due to be retired in 2021. The future of the plant has become a source of contention between GWP and environmentalists and locals opposed to the installation of new gas-powered infrastructure.

It is the second time this month that a dirty gas plant in California has been partially replaced with cleaner alternatives, as utilities scramble towards meeting a new state law that requires 100% of electricity generation to come from climate-friendly sources by 2045. In Oakland, a 40-year old jet-fuel power plant is set to be replaced by solar-plus-battery systems, in that instance through networking devices in customer households.

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Arizona’s state utility to tender 400MW of wind and solar

Arizona’s largest electric utility is gearing up to tender 400MW of renewables before the summer is up.

Arizona Public Service Company (APS) announced Monday that it will tender 150MW of solar and 250MW of wind resources to commercial partners by 15 September.

The planned solar generation will be owned by APS and designed with the potential for future energy storage. It will be switched on by 2021, according to a company release.

This added capacity will support the regional utility’s target of expanding its renewable energy portfolio to around 2,500MW by 2021 – or enough to power half a million homes.

Solar accounts for 6.42% of Arizona’s electricity and employs more than 7,500 people in the state, according to the Solar Energies Industries Association.

An independent, third-party monitor will review the competitive procurement process. More specific information about the tender will be released in the coming weeks.

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Southern Power to develop 345MWh quartet of energy storage projects

Wholesale power provider Southern Power is to develop up to four utility-scale energy storage projects totalling 86MW / 345MWh.

Of the four projects, all in California, one has already closed financing. Southern Power is working with developer esVolta on the portfolio.

“Battery storage is an emerging technology with the potential to revolutionize how energy is supplied,” said Southern Power President Bill Grantham. “These projects and our partnership with esVolta are a great strategic fit for our business, and these transactions will further position Southern Power to meet our customers’ needs as the energy industry continues to evolve.”

Contract details were not revealed but a statement from Southern Power said the deal was aligned with its “low-risk business strategy of developing or acquiring interests in projects covered by long-term contracts”.

“Southern Power is an outstanding company and a leader in the US electricity sector,” said Randolph Mann, founder and president, esVolta. “Our collaboration will enhance esVolta’s ability to capitalize on the strong growth of the energy storage business, and we are excited to work alongside the outstanding team at Southern Power to bring additional high-quality utility-scale storage projects to fruition for our utility customers.”

Larger projects are becoming increasingly commonplace in California. Last month Fluence broke ground on the Alamitos project. The 100MW / 400MWh install is being developed in Southern California for AES, one half of the Fluence joint venture.

In April Southern California Edison signed contracts for six projects with a total capacity of 181MW. The group are in being built to protect the local network from gas shortages after the leak at Aliso Canyon.

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Oklahoma picked out for NextEra’s next big wind-solar-battery hybrid

Wholesale electricity supplier NextEra Energy Resources will be deploying a major US complex combining solar, wind and storage batteries, a mix the broader NextEra group sees as increasingly promising.

The Western Farmers Electric Cooperative (WFEC) has agreed to become the offtaker for the 700MW Skeleton Creek hybrid, which NextEra wants to deploy in the state of Oklahoma.

A power purchase agreement (PPA) has been signed for wind and solar installations of 250MW capacity each, paired with a 200MW four-hour battery energy storage system.

The three installations are set to be built in the counties of Garfield, Alfalfa and Major, in the northern strip of Oklahoma state.

The wind plant is due to go live later this year, while the PV and battery elements are both expected to start operations by the end of 2023.

According to NextEra, the project is the first to mix wind, solar and batteries in the 14-state grid region known as the Southwest Power Pool (SPP).

The 700MW size makes the co-located venture the largest of its kind ever to see the light across the entire country, the company went on to claim.

Not NextEra’s first triple hybrid

The Skeleton Creek announcement emerged just as another affiliate of the NextEra group, NextEra Energy Partners, signalled its belief in the potential of such hybrids in the US.

At a conference call on quarterly results just this week, NextEra Energy Partners CFO Rebecca Kujawa was bullish on solar’s potential, both as standalone and paired with others.

“The combination of low-cost renewables plus storage is expected to be increasingly disruptive to the nation’s generation fleet, providing significant growth opportunities well into the next decade,” the CFO explained.

The optimism appears to extend to Skeleton Creek’s offtaker WFEC. The addition of batteries to already “lower than ever” wind and solar prices will lead to affordable supply even “when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining,” said the power cooperative’s CEO Gary Roulet.

The triple hybrid is not NextEra’s first, however. In February this year, the firm unveiled plans for what it billed as “first of a kind” such scheme in the US.

The project in question will see NextEra deploy 300MW of wind, 50MW of solar and a 30MW battery system in Oregon, alongside state utility Portland General Electric.

This article first appeared on PV Tech

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US Congress proposes five-year ITC extension at full 30% rates

US federal and local politicians have thrown their weight behind solar at a momentous time for the industry, acting to rescue financial support from its law-mandated phase-down.

Solar industry body SEIA saluted this week’s tabling by four US Congress members of legislation that would defer the removal of investment tax credits (ITC), extending them for five years.

The scheme, launched in 2005, was prolonged in 2006, 2008 and 2015. The last extension was granted on the basis that tax credits would sunset from today’s 30%, to zero in some cases, by 2022.

The new bipartisan law – to be simultaneously introduced in the US House of Representatives and Senate – would retain full 30% tax credits for the whole duration of the five-year extension.

The Renewable Energy Extension Act is the work of Democratic senator Catherine Cortez Masto and House members Mike Thompson (Democrats), Paul Cook and Brian Fitzpatrick (Republicans).

“We know [the ITC] works, it produced billions in investment last year alone,” argued Thompson, while Cook said he was looking forward to working on what he described as a “bipartisan issue”.

‘An American success story’

The new act sees solar scale positions in the US legislative agenda as the country approaches presidential elections, scheduled in principle for November 2020.

The preservation of the ITC is a cause presidential hopefuls – Democrats Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, among others – have taken up, with letters this year urging to protect solar jobs.

The SEIA, which enlisted around 1,000 solar firms in July to back the extension of tax credits, estimates their permanence would boost US solar power generation by a third by 2030.

Abigail Ross Hopper, CEO of the trade body, thanked the four Congress members on Thursday for the legislation they have now put forward.

Adoption by the broader houses would land US Congress with “easy wins”, Ross argued, citing the findings of widespread citizen support for solar across surveys.

“The ITC has created hundreds of thousands of jobs, sparked more than US$140 billion in private investment…Now is not the time to turn our backs on this American success story,” she added.

Mayors stand for solar as US sets sights on net-zero

Another bipartisan set of politicians also chose this week to make a stand for US solar. On Wednesday, it emerged that 252 US mayors have so far signed a letter backing PV growth.

First launched in December 2017, the missive has now been endorsed by local heads from all US 50 states, with all pledging to make solar “key” in future energy plans.

Dean Trantalis, mayor of Florida’s Fort Lauderdale, said his city has to go beyond adapting to sea level rises. “Solar energy is an important part of that equation, and for good reason,” he added.

The US political rallying around solar comes as the world’s top economy initiates a transition, backed by lawmakers, towards net-zero carbon pollution by 2050.

According to Wood Mackenzie, decarbonising the power sector alone will require US$4.5 trillion, a 900GW energy storage boom and flexibility with natural gas and nuclear.

Efforts are being made to enlist Wall Street’s firepower and unlock US$1 trillion for renewable funding by 2030, but some have warned policy uncertainty puts the target at risk.

See here for information on the new act and here for more detail on the US mayors’ letter

US solar prospects amid a changing incentive landscape will take centre stage at Solar Media’s Solar & Storage Finance USA, to be held in New York on 29-30 October 2019

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From fossil fuels to sustainable futures: an (almost) virtuous circle

Say it loud and clear. The technology is “absolutely there” now for humanity to switch over to using huge amounts of renewable energy, reliably, says Wärtsilä VP for Europe Melle Kruisdijk. Then again, if you’re not reading this site for the very first time, you probably already know that.

So why has a natural gas generator manufacturer contacted to argue the business case for a 100% renewable energy future? We will get to that shortly, but first, to put things in context, yesterday, our sister site PV Tech reported on efforts by a trio of US House Committee Chairs to introduce a plan to shift to a “100% clean economy by 2050”.

A series of meetings and consultations will be launched to draw on a wide pool of relevant stakeholders. The results of those meetings will then inform a piece of legislation with the 2050 target at its heart, PV Tech’s John Parnell wrote.

“That’s all well and good,” as lawyer Kirsti Massie of UK firm White & Case told me a couple of weeks ago in reference to the UK setting a similar target for the same year, but the policy details then quickly need to fall into place for things to then happen in the years leading up to 2050. We’re kidding ourselves if we think we can meet those goals without doing so and the need to limit the catastrophic effects of climate change is even more urgent than that. 

While we want the policy big hitters to start turning rhetoric into action, the industry has not been afraid to take up the thread. Wärtsilä, a major player in maritime energy systems as well as gas turbine manufacture and French oil giant Total are among those has spoken to that, despite their continuing business interests in those existing industries, are advocating strongly that the technology to get to majority, then to 100%, renewables is already here, although implementing that will take time and a series of steps.

A little while ago, as we looked at some notable recent big acqusitions, including the takeover of energy storage system integrator Greensmith by the Finnish gas engine manufacturer, Greensmith’s current interim man-in-charge Andy Tang had said that reaching a 100% renewable energy future is about more than incrementally adding higher shares of renewable energy, more needs to be done on energy systems both on-grid and off-grid to integrate that flexibility. Particularly when we go above 20% penetration of solar capacity.

Today, as Greensmith’s parent company announced a 100MW / 100MWh energy storage system delivery and EPC contract at an unspecified location in South East Asia, Wärtsilä once again touted that it is “enabling the transition towards 100% renewable energy around the world by designing and building flexible systems that integrate renewables, traditional thermal assets and energy storage”.

So what does that actually mean? Is it really a means to making renewable energy the main source of powering the world, or is Wärtsilä cleverly leveraging some new technologies to continue selling its gas engines?

Melle Kruisdijk says that in fact, it was one of Wärtsilä’s customers that “showed us a way in which our engines can utilise and actually enable the uptake of more renewables,” at a Texas wind farm.

“Our legacy technology is reciprocating engines. Those were used in marine to power the ships. In the 90s we started using these engines to build land-based power plants.

“What we found out from our customers later is that they used these plants in a different way than we intended them for. We intended them for baseload power – and they started using them in much more, ‘start and stop cycles’.

“They called this power plant a ‘wind chaser’. [The customer said] ‘all the fluctuations introduced by the variations of wind, is now smoothed out thanks to your technology’. That was quite an eye-opener.”

Although eventually, renewables must replace conventional thermal generation, if gas engines can complement renewables to provide system stability, “we looked at it as our technology complimenting and actually enabling renewables,” Kruisdijk says.

“That’s what also brought us to this 100% renewable energy vision. Then, the final push in our view is that when there’s so much renewable energy on the system, that you have situations when there’s too much electricity, there’s more electricity from renewables than you can actually take up. At that point in time, you can use that electricity for input for other processes. Like for example, power-to-gas, to generate synthetic fuels.”

So, Wärtsilä’s customers brought this potential for independence from fossil fuels to the company’s attention. What’s driving forward continuing change in this direction is not ideology however, but economics. Avoiding stranded assets and using the cheapest sources of energy to build today – solar and wind – make economic sense. As a commercial entity, Wärtsilä is responding to the market and as the costs of renewable energy drop further and further, Kruisdijk and his team simply see that this is the direction of travel.

Of course, this is, not, and the fact that Wärtsilä’s Melle Kruisdijk is speaking to us, means that battery energy storage is nonetheless key to this “100% renewable energy vision”.

The crucial role of Greensmith in this ‘vision’ is twofold: the addition of batteries, typically lithium-ion batteries and Greensmith’s GEMS software platform, adds flexibility to often very large systems, dramatically reducing the amount of fossil fuels needed to stabilise the grid (or microgrid). Secondly, battery system integrators like Greensmith need to be total system integrators, able to coordinate and add diverse energy resources – or the entire system will not work and the battery – likely to be the single most expensive component, will not work properly, or last as long as it should.

“The path is there, it’s about having this technology, it’s also about being able to integrate those different resources, all those fluctuations, of course on the consumer side you are connecting electric vehicles that consume or produce.”

Wärtsilä’s engines can be ramped up in two minutes and ramped down again in one minute. Previously however, the gas generators had to be run at 50% of their load, as a minimum sustainable operating point, which “of course is not good”, Kruisdijk says, whereas with the addition of batteries, the engines run-time is significantly reduced.

“First of all, it is not the most efficient operating point for those plants, and they’re generating emissions, and actually they’re not needed. So somewhere in another part of the system they will be curtailing renewable power because all the space on the grid is already taken. If you would replace that old conventional with these flexible units, you would actually enable space on the grid to take up more renewables, without jeopardising the stability because the flexibility can be brought up online, within just a matter of seconds.”

“Let’s be realistic, nobody thinks of replacing all oil and gas right away with renewables, but there’s a strong path,” Michael Lippert, sales director at battery system technology supplier and integrator Saft – majority-owned by French oil and gas giant Total – says.

“Total was among the first to say that oil and gas will remain important – but not the only energy carriers. The path [towards renewables] will only happen if people like Total and others, go step-by-step. And Total has engaged this path a couple of years ago,” Lippert says.

The consequences of choosing this path have translated into a sustainable energy division of Total that includes SunPower as well as Saft and electric vehicle sector interests too. So while we talk about a shift to 100% renewables, its perhaps as much about making the subtle distinction in the way we look at energy. For major companies like Total to transition to renewables begins with “dealing with electricity as an energy carrier and developing an offering along the entire value chain which means starting from renewable generation to retailing to the end customer,” Lippert says. Of course, “energy storage is part of the story”.

Like oil and gas rivals like Shell and other major incumbent energy majors like utilities E.On, Engie and EDF, Total’s acquisitions of interests in the renewables and wider distributed energy space have been prolific. And while they represent a much smaller sum of spending than majors and supermajors still put int the fossil fuel businesses, companies like Total do not “spend money for the sake of spending money,” Lippert says.

Lippert agrees with Melle Kruisdijk’s assertion that the real strength of batteries and their key role in the energy transition lies with providing flexibility to accommodate renewables. The majority of Saft’s business is, Lippert says, “still linked with renewables”.

“But, of course the penetration of renewables on the grid puts our grids under stress and I think on the horizon five years from now we will see batteries used as flexibilities for operating the grid.”

One example where the policy space, electricity networks and private companies can come together is a proposed project by a French transmission system operator (TSO) that the battery integrator is in talks to be involved with.

The project would “create virtual power lines to deal with peak power flows on the grid and you use storage for this. It’s one of the interesting and quite large-scale projects to start to think about how to use energy storage in congestion management on the grid,” Lippert says.

It’s unhelpful to imagine that people are working in the fossil fuel industry today for the express purpose of destroying the planet. Many have an affiliation which goes back to wanting to make the world a better place by enabling energy production and infrastructure alike to power our world using engineering solutions. It’s no secret that salaries in those legacy industries in general still far outstrip renewables and there is undoubtedly a financial motivation for the involvement of many, but even were that to be the case, the business case for renewable energy grows in tandem with cost decreases.

Being led to this way of thinking by a customer, Wärtsilä’s Melle Kruisdijk says, shows that there is no longer a contradiction between smart economics and more efficient, more sustainable energy supply and use. Although both the Saft and Wärtsilä representatives say that regulation needs to change to catch up with technology, the economic benefits are as clear as the environmental ones.

“The path [to 100% renewables] will be different in different countries, but we’re convinced it will happen,” Melle Kruisdijk says.

“Not only because of regulation but also because of economics. We see the costs for renewables dropping all the time. New renewable energy is more competitive than new conventional at the moment and obviously there will be an increasing amount of renewables. And apart from this, it’s obvious that you will need flexibility. That flexibility to firm up the system will come, for example from engine technology but also from battery and other sorts of technologies.

“Our view is that as soon as there is an abundance of electricity you can use that, the whole stream you can utilise in that infrastructure. Then, you’re really at a 100% renewable system.” 

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NextEra firm bullish on solar’s post-ITC prospects

There is cause to be bullish about the prospects of solar in the US even after the scheduled sunset of the investment tax credits (ITC), according to the renewables investment subsidiary of major US utility NextEra.

The industry is campaigning for an extension of the measures, with trade body SEIA telling PV Tech an extension would mean solar having a 16% rather than 12% share in the nation’s generation mix come 2030.

NextEra Energy Partners, which “acquires, manages and owns” renewable assets, remains publicly confident about the sector’s prospects.

During the conference call for its second-quarter results, Rebecca Kujawa, CFO and executive vice president, was confident about the ongoing competitiveness of solar.

“As we highlighted last month, with continued cost and efficiency improvements, we expect new near-firm wind and solar to be cheaper than the operating costs of coal, nuclear and less fuel-efficient oil and gas-fired generation units, even after the tax credits phase down early in the next decade,” she said.

“The combination of low-cost renewables plus storage is expected to be increasingly disruptive to the nation’s generation fleet, providing significant growth opportunities well into the next decade,” Kujawa added.

“With the economic advantages of wind and solar versus traditional generation resources even after the tax credits phase down, we expect renewables to grow at a rate that provides a meaningful tailwind to NextEra Energy Partners’ growth well into the next decade,” the CFO explained.

The company reported a loss for the quarter of U$28 million. During the reporting period it acquired a 611MW portfolio of wind and solar projects.

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SEIA Report: Corporate solar surges in US with more than 7,000MW of installed capacity

A new report from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) speaks volumes about the level of commitment that corporate giants have made to embrace PV energy both in the present and moving forward. 

SEIA’s Solar Means Business 2018 Report tracked more than 7,000MW of installed solar capacity across 35,000 projects, up from 2,500MW and 7,000 projects in the 2017 report.

Tech giant Apple now stands as the leading procurer of corporate solar in the US with nearly 400MW of total installed capacity.

Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of SEIA, said: “Top companies are increasingly investing in clean, reliable solar energy because it makes economic sense. During the Solar+ Decade, corporate solar investments will become even more significant as businesses use solar to fight climate change, create jobs and boost local economies. When global brands go solar, the rest of the world takes note, and this report puts the power of corporate solar investment on full display.”

While Apple leads the pack when it comes to installed generation capacity, nine total corporations have installed at least 100MW, with Apple, Amazon, Target and Walmart all installing over 200MW to date. 

Kara Hurst, director of sustainability at Amazon, said: “Playing a significant role in helping to reduce the sources of human-induced climate change is an important commitment for Amazon. Major investments in renewable energy are a critical step toward addressing our carbon footprint globally. We will continue to invest in these projects and look forward to additional investments this year and beyond.”

When it comes to on-site PV installations, the same three companies at the top of the 2017 report remain the following year in Target, Walmart and Prologis. 

John Leisen, vice president of property management at Target, said: “We are honoured to be recognized by SEIA for a third consecutive year for our solar development. Target is committed to sustainable operations and creating a healthier environment for our team members and guests with renewable energy.”

Matt Singleton, senior vice president of global energy at Prologis, added: “Prologis was among the first in the logistics real estate industry to invest in solar, and our future-focused approach to environmental, social and governance practices has put us on pace to surpass our goal of 200MW of solar capacity by 2020. We are honoured to be recognized for our efforts to deliver value to our customers and minimize our environmental impact through our renewable energy program.”

Both falling prices and more flexible financing and procurement systems have played a key role in the rapid growth of corporate solar adoption, with more than half of all corporate solar capacity in the US-installed since 2016. The 7,000MW of installed commercial solar today generates 10.7 million MWh of electricity on a yearly basis, enough to power 1.4 million homes.

The report added that each week 6.6 million people visit a Walmart store with on-site solar, Amazon’s solar installations offset the CO2 equivalent of more than 200 million miles of truck deliveries, while Apple’s solar installations generate enough electricity annually to charge more than 60 billion smartphones.

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