The largest solar energy and storage project in the US is now operational in the Mojave Desert, California. This sprawling megaproject spans 4,600 acres in Kern County and occupies both private land and Edwards Air Force Base, marking the largest public-private partnership in the history of the United States Air Force.
Edwards & Sanborn Project
Known as the Edwards & Sanborn project , it was developed by Terra-Gen and built by Mortenson, an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor. Construction began in the first quarter of 2021 and completion was announced last week. The project incorporates a staggering 1.9 million modules from panel maker First Solar and 120,720 batteries from LG Chem, Samsung and BYD, establishing itself as the largest project of its kind in the United States, according to Mortenson.
The entire system is interconnected by more than 400 miles of cable , according to Brent Bergland, Mortenson’s vice president of project development.
As solar energy represents an increasing proportion of the energy mix, it becomes crucial to have battery storage systems to capture excess daytime energy and make it available for later use during the day. This is why solar installations are increasingly being associated with battery plants, forming the leading combination in hybrid renewable energy: photovoltaic energy together with storage.
The largest solar energy and storage project in the US
This particular project has a generation capacity of 875 MW from solar energy, complemented by 3,287 megawatt-hours of energy storage. Serving more than 10 customers, including Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, the City of San Jose, Clean Power Alliance and Starbucks, the project is managed and operated by Terra-Gen, which retains ownership of the project.
Likewise, contracts with Terra-Gen cover exclusive solar, storage-only and solar combined with storage agreements, according to Bergland. The batteries will be used for various applications, including large-scale storage to provide constant power during the night, as well as for other grid services.
” A project like this is a critical energy resource to help grid operators and generators manage an ever-changing system ,” Bergland said. ” These projects can be used to balance and support the grid in the middle of the day or provide a instant support to the market .”
It should be noted that it was backed by well-known financial entities specialized in infrastructure, such as JP Morgan, Deutsche Bank, BNP Paribas, CoBank, US Bank, ING and Nomura, through two rounds of financing that totaled more than 1.7 billion dollars, distributed in the form of construction financing, term financing, revolving credit, tax equity and tax equity bridge facilities. Bergland highlighted Mortenson’s positive experience with the project’s fully unionized workforce, which peaked at about 1,000 workers.
Bergland, an experienced developer, said this is probably the most complex project he has been involved in, given its size, extensive workforce, three independent interconnections to the grid, combination of technologies and suppliers for both solar and storage. , and the diversity of purchase agreements.
The growth of utility-scale solar and grid storage stands out in the US renewable energy landscape. The learning curve, driven by automation, software improvements and panel efficiency, continues to reduce the costs of large-scale solar generation, already the most economical source. Likewise, a decrease in battery costs is observed and it is anticipated that storage capacity will double in the United States this year.
These factors are expected to drive the creation of many more combined solar and storage megaprojects in the coming years.
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