Morning Brief: AES invests in solar startup 5B, Switch selects Tesla batteries for datacenters

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Hecate Energy, the largest privately-held independent solar power developer in the U.S., sold its 514 MWac Aktina Solar PV power plant in Wharton County, Texas, to Tokyo Gas America. Upon completion, Aktina Solar is expected to be the largest solar PV project in Texas and one of the largest in the U.S. The project is scheduled to break ground in Q3 2020, and the first blocks will be operational by Q3 2021. With this project, Hecate has contracted or sold 2 GW of solar projects. Source: Hecate Energy

With hot and humid conditions enveloping New England, demand for electricity across the region hit its highest level so far this year at about 6:30 p.m. Monday. This year’s peak experience in many ways highlights how the regional power grid is changing and how far it has to go to fully decarbonize. Peaks used to occur in the afternoon, when temperatures hit their highest levels and air conditioners are going full tilt. But the deployment of solar panels on roofs across the region has pushed the peak into the early evening. There is lots of talk on Beacon Hill about going 100% renewable, but Monday’s peak experience illustrates how far the region has to go. The regional power grid handled Monday’s surge in electricity demand easily, but in doing so it relied primarily on power generated by natural gas (70%), nuclear (16%), hydro (8%), renewables (5%), and even a bit of oil and coal. Source: Commonwealth

Data center provider Switch has selected Tesla as the battery supplier for a massive solar project at its northern Nevada data-center facilities. It’s a geographically easy alliance as Switch’s campus is right near Tesla’s Gigafactory Nevada manufacturing facility. Switch recently broke ground on Gigawatt 1, a project that will use solar panels from First Solar to generate a total of 555 MW of power at three locations and Tesla Megapacks to store the energy. In running a data center, there are no peak hours noted Adam Kramer, executive VP of strategy at Switch. “The Internet is 24/7. If they aren’t using it in New York, they are using it in L.A. We have a very flat power profile. Our load looks the same at 2 a.m. as it does at 2 p.m.” Source: Network World

AES made a strategic investment in 5B, a solar startup based in Sydney, Australia. 5B’s design enables customers to add solar resources at a pace that is three times faster while providing up to two times more energy within the same footprint of traditional solar facilities, according to the company. 5B’s design is a pre-wired, prefabricated solar solution that is folded up, shipped to site and rolled out. The 5B approach streamlines engineering, procurement and construction for ground-mounted solar facilities. Source: AES

Chart of the day: 2019 U.S. coal production falls to its lowest level since 1978

U.S. total annual coal production

Last year’s production was the lowest amount of coal produced in the U.S. since 1978, when a coal miners’ strike halted most of the country’s coal production from December 1977 to March 1978. Weekly coal production estimates from the U.S. EIA show the U.S. is on pace for an even larger decline in 2020, falling to production levels comparable with those in the 1960s. Source: EIA