Corporate PPA marketplace brings solar power development efficiency

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When developing a solar power deal there are a few key issues that must be solved for. The first is site control: meaning the place where we’re going to build has legally given us permission to do so. The next is interconnection: getting permission, at a reasonable cost, to connect your hardware to the power grid. And, arguably the most important, is the offtaker: who is going to buy the electricity for 20 plus years? Each of these project milestones need individual experts to move them through the machine.

LevelTen Energy has announced that Starbucks has signed three power purchase agreements (PPA) for 146 MW of wind and solar power via its online marketplace. The portfolio incorporates three new renewable energy projects: 50 MW of wind power from an ALLETE Clean Energy project in the SPP market, acquired from Apex Clean Energy; 50 MW of solar power from a Cypress Creek Renewables project in the ERCOT market, and 46 MW of solar power from a BayWa r.e. project in the PJM market.

The company noted that the three contracts were of nearly identical language and are expected to come online by the end of 2020.

LevelTen’s Dynamic Matching Engine is a software tool that curates and analyzes clean energy projects under development that nationwide developers have uploaded into its system. The company’s quarterly data reports (image to the left) allows for significant insight into PPA pricing across many markets.

This tool is among others that have helped to bring significantly greater efficiency to the development of solar power projects. Bloomberg recently reported that in 2017 we saw that it took 23 people per megawatt to develop a solar power project, down from 101 per megawatt in 2010. Bloomberg suggests changes are due in part to more automated factories, increasingly efficient panels and components that are easier to assemble in the field.

Anecdotally, this author is a solar power developer who is able to deliver construction quotes and financial models via tool like Helioscope and Energy Toolbase. Where in the past it might have taken a site visit and developing unique spreadsheets for every single marketplace across the United States, now smaller shops can put together respectable quotes that are >95% correct in under thirty minutes without spending significant time on the road (or even physically being in the local marketplace at all).

LevelTen recently noted a $20.5 million cash raise from Prelude Ventures, Constellation Technology Ventures, the venture investing arm of Exelon Corporation and a collection of others in its Series B funding round. This brings the company’s total investment to date to $27.3 million.