210 MW-DC solar farm proposed for Wisconsin

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In another instance of a massive project proposed in a previously underdeveloped state, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy, has  applied to Wisconsin regulators for permission to build a 201 MW-DC (150 MW-AC) solar project in Manitowoc and Kewaunee counties, Wisconsin.

This project is even larger than the 100 MW project in Maine which we covered this week, and like Maine Wisconsin has not been a leading market. The state’s solar market ranked 32nd in GTM Research and Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) 2017 Solar Market Insight Report, with the largest project in the state being the 2.5 MW Flambeau Solar Partners plant and the total installed capacity of the state coming in at 50 MW-DC.

NextEra is in talks with both Wisconsin Public Service Corporation and Madison Gas and Electric Company to transfer ownership of the project prior to construction, though there is no concrete deal currently in place.

What makes the move so interesting is the possibility that the RECs produced by the plant will be of limited value. Wisconsin has already hit its renewable portfolio standard (RPS) of 10% in 2015, which means that if this project is bought by the utilities, it will not be due to any state mandate.

It is also unclear if ownership will able to generate value for the RECs within the state. Wisconsin is part of a regional REC certification program, which may allow the plant to redeem its RECs in neighboring states.

Illinois is likely the largest nearby state market for RECs. However, out-of-state projects must qualify under a scoring rubric. Furthermore, SRECs are currently not very valuable in Illinois.

While there is currently no battery component to the plant, NextEra has explicitly declared that one may be added at a later date. This is notable, considering that NextEra has built the world’s largest battery storage systems in Florida and has bid to build the largest storage systems that the world has ever seen in Colorado.

The proposed site sits on 1,300 acres of agricultural land on the shore of Lake Michigan. The plant’s solar arrays will either utilize either 477,000 of First Solar’s Series 6 panels or 525,000 Jinko Eagle HC panels.