The largest US solar-plus-storage plant will deploy 690 MW of bifacial modules on trackers

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The $1 billion Gemini solar project on BLM land outside of Las Vegas will be the largest solar project in the U.S. when completed. The 690 MW facility was approved by the Trump administration last week.

Visual impact issues have been mitigated. New methods of working with native vegetation and wildlife are being implemented. Desert tortoises are being relocated during construction — and the project is full-speed ahead for developers Arevia Power and Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners.

David Scaysbrook, founder and managing partner of Quinbrook, spoke to pv magazine about developing the country’s largest PV solar power plant.

Although 690 MW is large by solar standards, Quinbrook has experience developing 2,000 MW projects. Gemini “is a big power project, but not daunting. We’ve done plenty of that size in the past,” said the clean energy project developer. Quinbrook manages pension money and finds Gemini “a perfect fit for a pension fund.”

Gemini is on land that was originally identified by defunct concentrated solar power (CSP) aspirant Brightsource. Converting the project from CSP to PV was supported by the Department of Interior, according to Scaysbrook.

FAST-41

The developer noted that this project took advantage of FAST-41, a framework “designed to improve the timeliness, predictability, and transparency of the Federal environmental review and authorization process,” according to the government website.

Scaysbrook noted that this was not a reduced regulatory scope — “it was an initiative of the Trump administration to respond in a limited time range — a 12 month time line. Under the old regime that could have gone six or seven years.”

He noted that there were “no shortcuts” taken or allowed.

Bifacial module testing on site

Scaysbrook said, “We’re in the procurement process and were waiting for [government approval] before starting equipment requisitions.” He was confident that the installation would include trackers and bifacial solar modules.

The developer is getting field data and looks to have a vendor short list in four to five months. The firm is looking to perform onsite testing of leading bifacial modules and local albedo conditions.

“One of the purest forms of time shifting you’ll ever see.”

The facility will include a mammoth 380 MW/1,400 MWh lithium-ion battery, one of the larger batteries being deployed today. Lithium-ion battery technology is specified by NV Energy in the PPA.

Scaysbrook said “This is designed specifically for NV Energy’s needs in the summer months.”

Gemini produces power year round, but the role of the battery is principally in the summer and particularly from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. It’s not designed for ancillary services.

With oversized solar and a one-time a day discharge in the late afternoon, it’s what Scaysbrook called, “One of the purest forms of time shifting you’ll ever see.”

More gritty project details

The approved right-of-way grant for the Gemini project and authorized solar facilities include:

  • 34.5 kilovolt overhead and underground collector lines
  • A 2-acre operation and maintenance facility
  • Three substations
  • Internal access roads, access roads along generation tie-lines, a perimeter road
  • Perimeter fencing
  • Water storage tanks for fire protection, drainage control features, a potential on-site water well or a new water pipeline
  • Improvements to the existing NV Energy facilities to support interconnection.

The land proposed for the enormous development is on the Moapa River Indian Reservation, 33 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

The on-site construction workforce is expected to average 500 to 700 construction workers, with a peak of up to 900 workers, supporting up to an additional 1,100 jobs in the local community and injecting an estimated $712.5 million into the economy during construction.

The two-phase project is anticipated to be completed as early as 2022. There is a 25-year PPA signed with NV Energy for the power produced by Gemini that was approved last year by the Nevada Utility Commission.