Big solar projects in the U.S. are back in style and the Lone Star state is a hotbed of developer activity.
These large solar projects are no longer driven by RPS edicts or government loan programs — but by corporate clean energy buyers, utility offtakers and the sheer competitive pricing of solar (or solar-plus-storage) compared to other generation sources.
Big solar is a good fit for Texas. Although the state has no renewable portfolio standard, it has Texas sun, lots of flat land, a competitive energy-only marketplace and relatively low development costs. Texas is projected to be the No. 2 state in new solar capacity over the next five years, according to SEIA, and remains one of the fastest growing solar energy markets in the country.
This week’s focus project, the 1-GW Misae, comes equipped with Texas brio in the person of Dr. Miguel Alejandro Oneto, a radiologist by training and solar developer by calling. He’s developing the massive project in the Texas panhandle along with LAE American Energy.
When we last reported on Misae I, the equipment included:
- Jinko supplied mono-crystalline solar panels for the project
- 80 DC-to-AC inverters from Power Electronics
- Trackers were supplied by Nextracker
The 240 MWac/330 MWdc Misae I “is already operational — and we are eager to get Misae II built,” Oneto told pv magazine.
Our earlier reporting noted that the financing for phase I included a hedge to protect buyers against volatile merchant electricity market pricing. The terms also allow the owner to take advantage of upside pricing potential when demand is high.
Dr. Oneto said that phase II development is “mostly complete and ready to build with an executed interconnection agreement” for the 517 MWac/693 MWdc behemoth. Here are some of the vitals.
- Developed on 3,800 acres of flat agriculture land next to Phase I and connected to the Tesla substation’s 345 KV line
- The full interconnection study (facility, short circuit, steady state and dynamic studies) has been posted as final by AEP
- Expected to declare Notice to Proceed in December 2020 and reach COD in December 2022
Oneto told pv magazine, “The daytime generation profile of this solar project reduces the impact of curtailment risk.” Texas has substantial wind capacity online, especially in the Panhandle region where this project is located and solar generation “better aligns with the state’s demand profile.”
Relaunching the sale of equity
“Tax equity is not that easy to find — but we do see serious interest that will support the project,” said the doctor developer.
Oneto noted, “We are working with our advisor, Rubicon Capital, to relaunch the sale of the equity interest in the project. During our initial outreach last year, we received feedback that the projects needs to be further developed…Since then we have been able to secure multiple off-taker options that should provide buyers with a greater degree of flexibility.”
30 GW of new utility-scale PV contracted in the U.S.
There’s still about 30 GW of new utility-scale solar contracted in the U.S., according to Wood Mackenzie. The analyst firm suggests that even with a a 26% shortfall from its forecast, “2020 would be the biggest year for utility solar.”
There’s a proliferation of record setting 100-MW-plus projects now in development in unexpected places such as Pennsylvania, Mississippi and Arkansas — and the number of commissioned projects of this size is going to balloon this year and next.
And critically — there are, or were, about 300 solar installers and about 10,000 solar jobs in Texas as of the fourth quarter of 2019.
“We continue to strongly believe in the superior economic potential of large solar facilities,” said the solar Dr. Oneto.
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