Buffett buys a gigawatt of solar power and 400 MWh of energy storage, maybe


Warren Buffett’s electric utilities are pushing the renewable electricity game harder than anyone else right now. Just yesterday, MidAmerican Energy announced that they’d become the first investor-owned utility to be 100% renewable energy by 2020 with a 591-MW wind farm project.

The company followed on this today, with MidAmerican subsidiary NV Energy announcing that it will procure power from 1001 MW-AC of new solar projects and 100 MW/400 megawatt-hours (MWh) of battery storage.

Of the 1001 MW-AC, the largest of the projects planned is the 300 MW Eagle Shadow Mountain Solar Farm being developed by 8minuteenergy. The project will be built on Moapa River Indian land, about 30 minutes north of Las Vegas in Clark County. 8minute energy suggests that the 300 MW plant will generate more than 900 million kilowatt hours (kWh) annually, representing a capacity factor of more than 34%.

NextEra is building two of the projects. The first is the 200 MW-AC Dodge Flat Salt Energy Center (above image) located near the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center that Tesla’s Gigafactory is located in. The facility will come with a huge 50 MW / 200 MWh energy storage system – possibly the largest officially announced in the United States, but not the largest NextEra has submitted for bids. Example images supplied with the project suggested single axis trackers. The project is projected to supply 500 million kWh/ year, suggesting a capacity factor of 28.5%.

The second NextEra project is the 100 MW-AC Fish Springs Ranch Solar Energy System. The facility will include a 25 MW / 100 MWh energy storage system. Documents suggested that the solar portion will not include single-axis trackers, but instead fixed-tilt racking. The project has been in development for at least eight years, possibly longer.

Cypress Creek Renewables is building a 101 MW-AC plant near Battle Mountain. The plant includes a 25MW / 100 MWh DC-coupled energy storage installation. The project is noted as the nation’s largest DC coupled energy storage system – possibly behind only NextEra’s 4 MW / 16 MWh project in Florida.

The 250-megawatt Copper Mountain Solar 5 project will be developed by Sempra Renewables, and is adjacent to four other solar power projects (below image).

The last of the projects is the 50 MW-AC Techren Solar V project, to be developed adjacently to Techren Solar I, II, III and IV. When the five projects are complete the facility will be 400 MW.

It is possible that the total DC size of these projects will reach 1.5 GW of total based upon the nature of the installations and the increasing DC:AC of utility scale solar. NextEra has pushed some of its projects to nearly 1.7 DC:AC ratio.


Renewables and monopolies

Warren Buffet’s embrace of renewable energy goes beyond MidAmerican and NV Energy. In the company’s 2017 Integrated Resource Plan, Buffett-owned Pacificorp says that it will build no new fossil fuels over the next 20 years – only wind + solar.

Of course, all utilities have shown a preference for owning and/or buying power from large-scale renewable energy instead of encouraging customer-owned rooftop solar. As a utility owner Buffett is no different, which is why he wants to limit net metering for rooftop solar in Nevada,

And here there are continuing concerns. NV Energy CEO Paul Caudill has noted that the utility might kill these large-scale solar and energy storage deals if voters approve a ballot measure that would eliminate NV Energy’s electricity monopoly. NV Energy is part of a group funding $30 million to defeat a measure to “deregulate” electric utilities in Nevada and allow for retail competition in Nevada.

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