350 MW solar + 350 MW storage project moves forward in California

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One of the world’s largest solar + storage projects has taken a bureaucratic step forward. Recurrent Energy’s ‘Crimson Solar’ 350 MW solar power project is planned for coupling with 350 MW of energy storage. The project doesn’t yet have a offtaker, but provides yet more evidence that the energy storage revolution is getting going and going big – and that the biggest players have been considering these huge projects since at least 2015.

The project does not yet have an offtaker, but on March 9th, theDepartment of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) filed a Notice of Intent to prepare and environmental impact statement and land use plan for the project in Riverside County, California.

The Notice of Intent is focused on details of site analysis, with environmental and tribal concerns paramount. This most recent incarnation of the project has been in development since at least January 2016 (20 page PDF BLM filing), after Recurrent Energy acquired the development rights in 2015. This even more recent project layout has gone through much editing since 2016 – with the original filing suggesting a 450 MW solar and 450 MW storage project.

In comments given to Sammy Roth at The Desert Sun, Scott Dawson, Recurrent’s director of permitting said

Crimson would disrupt 30 acres of sand dune habitat used by the Mojave fringe-toed lizard — down from 580 acres under a previous plan of development — and just 1.2 acres of biodiversity-rich microphyll woodlands, down from 95 acres under the previous plan. It wouldn’t infringe on any critical habitat for the desert tortoise, which is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

BasinandRangeWatch.org has been following the project for years – noting the environment is a sensitive one.

The company’s site development plan in its original 2016 filing:

The site was originally planned for a 540 MW concentrating solar power (CSP) plant, with Sonoran West Solar Holdings taking over the project after the original developer, BrightSource Energy, ran into financial obstacles. When Recurrent purchased the development rights in 2015 they altered the design from CSP to solar PV and resubmitted the filing.

The BLM filing reads:

‘Sonoran West Solar Holdings LLC., has requested a right-of-way (ROW) authorization to construct, operate, maintain, and decommission an up to 350-megawatt photovoltaic facility along with necessary ancillary facilities, including up to eight project substations, access roads, operations and maintenance buildings, and lay-down areas. The project site consists of approximately 2,700 acres of BLM-managed land.’

The list of areas of additional analysis included in the BLM is long, including – but not limited to: special status wildlife and vegetation species; cultural resources; geology and soils; hazards and hazardous materials; paleontological resources; recreation; socioeconomics and environmental justice; visual resources; and wildland fire ecology.

Some of the technical notations include that the project will be built in 2 MW chunks, with each subsection having its own inverters on pallets delivered to the site. Interconnection hardware will include up to four substations that would transform voltage from the 34.5 kV electrical collection cables to 230 kV. If 350 MW of energy storage is included (in either flywheel or battery form) the storage system would consist of up to 3,000 electrical enclosures measuring approximately 40 feet by 8 feet by 8.5 feet high and installed on concrete foundations.

Specific hardware or whether the project will be single vs fixed tracking wasn’t noted in the document – though almost all utility scale projects in the southwest are using single axis trackers these days.

The company modeled a 600 day build-out schedule peaking at 250 workers:

Since this projection the project has shrunk from 450 MW to 350 MW.