J-Power, a dedicated fossil fuel developer, goes big in solar with 350 MW in ERCOT

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J-Power USA, Solar Plus Development, Avondale Solar and AP Solar Holdings are going to develop Red-Tailed Hawk Solar, a 350 MWac solar project located in Wharton County, Texas, through an equally-owned joint venture, AP Solar Holdings.

AP Solar develops and builds utility-scale solar power projects with a focus on Texas. AP manages land identification, permitting, regulatory, interconnection, engineering and design, and facilitates offtake for each project.

The Red-Tailed Hawk project is located near the load center of Houston, a high-power demand area, and is set to become operational in 2022 after breaking ground later this year. Mark Condon, CEO of J-Power USA, called it “the fastest growing load pocket in ERCOT,” in a release.

J-Power USA has a 6,500 MW power portfolio in the U.S across 12 gas generating facilities, but this will be J-Power USA’s first renewable project. J-Power USA’s parent company is a 60 year-old Japanese power provider with an 18 GW domestic portfolio across hydroelectric, pumped storage, thermal power and wind resources. J-Power is the largest coal-fired thermal power station operator in Japan.

“We are excited to expand our development capabilities into the renewable energy field,” said Condon.

AP Solar Holdings CEO Trevor Nash said, “Based on the market dynamics and data that we are seeing, Red-Tailed Hawk Solar will be well-positioned to provide low-cost renewable power to the Houston zone.”

Big Texas solar projects galore

Last month, developers Plus Renewable Technologies and Avondale Solar agreed to sell their interests in a 350 MWac solar PV project in Fort Bend County, Texas (Fighting Jays Solar) to an affiliate of Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP). Fighting Jays Solar is expected to break ground in the second half of 2020 and be operational by the summer of 2022.

Big solar projects in the U.S. are back in style and growing in number. There’s a proliferation of 100 MW-plus solar projects now in development that are happening in unexpected places like Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama.

WoodMac expects the number of solar projects larger than 120 MWac commissioned in the U.S. to grow from 11 in 2019 to 32 in 2021.

These large solar projects are no longer driven by RPS edicts but by corporate buyers and the sheer competitive pricing of solar or solar-plus-storage compared to other generation sources.

And if there’s one solar segment that can weather a pandemic, it’s utility-scale photovoltaics. Utility-scale supply chains are delayed, not broken — and it’s easier to work safely on a 500-acre solar project than on a home.