Solar just keeps getting cheaper. While the most recent report by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Laboratories (NREL) puts solar in the first quarter of 2017 at an unsubsidized cost of $44-66 per megawatt-hour, contracts for power into the future are often much cheaper.
Last week Nevada utility NV Energy, famous for being the utility which backed regulators’ temporarily evisceration of net metering in the state, quietly sought approval from the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada for three new solar power purchase agreements (PPAs) with developers totaling 100 MW-AC of capacity.
The largest of the three projects is the 50 MW-AC Turquoise Nevada solar farm, which Estuary Capital Advisors and Sumitomo Corporation are developing to serve an Apple data center in Sparks, Nevada. For this project NV Energy is seeking approval for a 25-year power contract with a base price of $30.99 per megawatt-hour (MWh), with a 2% annual escalator.
NV Energy will sell the electricity generated to Apple through its NV GreenEnergy Rider program, one of many such “green tariff” agreements being made in the United States between utilities and large corporate users who have renewable energy mandates.
In addition to Turquoise, NV Energy is seeking approval for power contracts with two 25 MW-AC solar projects in Boulder City, the Techren Solar 3 and 4 projects. These are also 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA) at a price of $34.20/MWh with no escalator.
These two represent successful bids into NV Energy’s qualifying facilities solicitation. NV Energy expects all three of the projects to come online by the end of 2020.
Utility spokespersons state that “to the best of our knowledge” the Techren 3 and 4 PPAs are the lowest-cost utility-scale solar PPAs in the United States to date. These are the least expensive that pv magazine staff has seen, however we were not able to verify that they are the lowest in the United States by press time.