Warren Buffett trades for four solar plants, retiring a coal unit


Nevada regulators have approved six solar power plants and three energy storage facilities, totaling just over 1 GWac of solar power and 100 MW / 400 MWh of storage. One of the facilities will come online by the end of 2020, and five by the end of 2021. Pending the timely completion of the solar projects, a 254 MW coal plant will be retired.

All six power purchase agreements (PPAs) have prices below $30/MWh:

  1. Sempra Renewables’ 250 MW Copper Mountain farm starts at $21.55/MWh, with a 2.5% annual escalation over the 25-year term of the contract.
  2. 8minuteenergy’s 300 MW Eagle Shadow Mountain facility has a fixed PPA price of $23.76/MWh. This plant represents the lowest solar PPA price in the United State’s currently.
  3. 174 Power Global’s 50 MW Techren V will sell power at $29.89/MWh with no escalation.
  4. NextEra Energy’s 200 MW Dodge Flat solar plant includes a 50 MW / 200 MWh battery storage system, priced its PPA $26.51/MWh.
  5. NextEra’s 100 MW Fish Springs Ranch solar farm is priced at $29.96/MWh and comes with with 25 MW / 100 MWh of storage.
  6. Cypress Creek’s 101 MW Battle Mountain Solar project also includes 25 MW / 100 MWh of storage, and is priced at a flat price of $26.50/MWh.

The storage facilities will receive capacity payments that range which range from $6,100/MW-month for Dodge Flat to $7,755/MW-month for Battle Mountain. A report by the Brattle Group for Nevada regulators suggests that by 2030 – depending on pricing – 700 to 1,000 MW / 2.8 to 4 GWh worth of energy storage could be cost-effectively deployed statewide.

Thanks to this new capacity, the 254 MW North Valmy 1 coal-fired plant will retire by Dec. 31, 2021, four years early. The North Valmy Unit 2 (268 MW) is still set to be retired by the end of 2025, and reports have suggested it can also be shut early.

Four of these installations are NV Energy facilities, and will bring the utility to around 32% of electricity from renewables. In November, state voters approved a referendum to move the state to 50% renewables by 2030 (which must be approved a second time in 2020, unless regulators adopt it in 2019).

NV Energy President Doug Cannon suggests that the company has set higher goals.

Earlier this year we made a promise to our customers that we would double our renewable energy by 2023 and today’s decision puts us closer to reaching that goal, as well as to our long-term commitment to serve them with 100 percent renewable energy

Warren Buffett-owned utilities have shown a penchant for aggressively chasing renewable energy. In Pacificorp ’s 2017 Integrated Resource Plan, the Buffett-owned utility says that it will build no new fossil fuel plants over the next 20 years, only wind and solar. MidAmerican Energy, an Iowa focused utility, plans to be 100% wind powered by 2021.

Edit: PPA price for Fish Springs project corrected. It prior noted the same price as the Sierra project price, if the Fish Spring price was included.

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