Sunrise brief: Convalt Energy wins approval for a 700 MW solar module production plant


Local officials in upstate New York approved a development proposal that moves Convalt Energy one step closer to building a facility to produce around 700 MW of solar modules each year.

Convalt is developing a factory in Watertown, New York, that could open in 2022 using solar manufacturing lines it acquired earlier this year from SunPower.

In January, PV module manufacturer Sunpower said it was closing its module plant in Hillsboro, Oregon. Sunpower started production of its P-series modules at the facility in February 2019, but decided to shift from PV manufacturing to providing rooftop PV arrays and storage systems.

In early July, industrial development officials in Jefferson County, New York, approved a plan for Convalt to build a 300,000-square-foot module manufacturing facility. The plant is expected to employ 300 people at the start, an increase from the roughly 170 people who were laid off when Sunpower closed its Oregon operations.

Convalt reportedly is working to line up construction financing as well as government incentives before it moves ahead on the project. Convalt was founded in 2011 and is a portfolio company of ACO Investment Group. To date, it has developed renewable energy projects in Southeast Asia and Africa.

In June, First Solar said it would invest $680 million to expand its domestic U.S. photovoltaic solar manufacturing capacity by 3.3 GW annually, representing an implied capital expenditure of around $0.20 per watt. The new facility in Ohio is expected to start operations in the first half of 2023, and reach full nameplate capacity in 2025.

Canadian Solar wins energy storage bid

Canadian Solar said it was awarded the first utility-scale battery storage project in Colombia of 45 MW / 45 MWh.

The project award came through a public tender launched by Colombia’s Ministry of Energy and Mines via its affiliate UPME, the Mining and Energy Planning Unit. Located in the city of Barranquilla in northern Colombia, the project will consist of a 45 MWh lithium-ion battery energy storage system, and is expected to reach commercial operation by June 2023. The project has a 15-year revenue structure with the Colombian government and is indexed to the country’s inflation or producer price index.

The Barranquilla project is expected to strengthen the electricity transmission network in the Atlántico Department in northern Colombia, support government efforts to prevent future supply deficits, and enable greater penetration of renewable energy.

Report touts rooftop solar for California

A report from Environment California Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group advocates for installing more rooftop solar in California as a way to increase renewable electricity generation while also protecting the state’s open spaces.

Laura Deehan, state director at Environment California Research & Policy Center, said that panels are quick to install and “don’t use up precious open space.” She said that the state should be doing “everything in its power” to accelerate rooftop solar.

PV installation on the Hacienda Townhomes in San Diego.

Everyday Energy/PR Web

The report said that for the state to reach its renewable energy goals, it will need to add 28.5 GW of rooftop solar, nearly quadrupling its current rooftop solar capacity. Adding that much rooftop solar capacity would enable California to maintain existing land uses on more than 148,000 acres of land, an area about half the size of Los Angeles.

The report also said that new rooftop solar projects typically are completed within three months, meaning that they can begin producing power faster than conventional resources. Rooftop solar also helps with water conservation efforts, since it requires no water for installation or cooling.

The report noted that the California Public Utilities Commission is currently considering changes to the state’s net metering program, which pays solar owners for the excess electricity that they sell back to the grid.

“The utility proposal to wipe out net metering would stall the growth of rooftop solar in the Golden State,” said Deehan.

B&W and NREL sign long-term storage tech agreement

Babcock & Wilcox and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory signed an Intellectual Property Option Agreement that gives B&W field-limited exclusive rights to negotiate a licensing agreement that would allow it to market an advanced, particle-based thermal energy storage technology currently in development.

B&W is part of NREL’s Duration Addition to electricitY Storage (DAYS) Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) team, which is developing an innovative electric particle heater, pressurized fluidized-bed heat exchanger, a long-term thermal energy storage system that stores energy up to 100 hours, and other technologies to allow power producers to store
solar or wind energy to generate continuous, reliable, grid-scale power.

B&W said its fluidized-bed heat exchanger will be able to generate up to 135 MW of power for up to 100 hours from stored thermal energy with zero CO2 emissions. By facilitating long-term storage, the technology is expected to enable power producers to deliver power to the grid 24-hours a day, including during periods of peak demand, or when solar or wind are not optimal conditions.”

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