Three Wisconsin utilities to buy stake in $433 million PV/storage project


Three Wisconsin utilities have signed on to purchase stake in the Paris Solar project, an Invenergy-developed solar PV and battery energy storage facility. Sized at 200MW of PV and 110MW of lithium-ion battery energy storage, the cost of acquisition was estimated to be $433 million.

Utility WE Energies is contracted to purchase the largest share at 75%. Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) signed on for 15% of the capacity, and the remainder of 10% is allocated to Madison Gas and Electric (MGE).

The project won regulatory approval in 2020. Last August, Invenergy sought approval to boost the battery storage component from 50MW to 110MW.

The storage aspect has met resistance from the state’s Citizens Utility Board. The group argues the project may not be the most cost-effective solution, citing concerns about the risks related to the relatively new technology of battery energy storage.

A filing from the group to the Public Service Commission said, “Due to the novelty of battery storage technology for utility-scale applications … Commission staff’s financial evaluation was unable to verify the applicants support for the cost-effectiveness of acquiring 110 MW of BESS in this docket.”

In its application to expand energy storage, Invenergy said the storage system can act as an “electrical suspension” system for the grid, to smooth abrupt ups and downs in solar production that can occur on partly cloudy days. The battery system can furnish other grid services such as frequency response, voltage support, and output scheduling to potentially shift some afternoon production to later in the day, if needed, to correspond with peak demands, said Invenergy.

(Read “Data confirm the rise of solar-plus-storage hybrids across the U.S. grid”)

When complete, the solar array will feature between 550,000 to 750,000 solar panels rating between 350-550W. Invenergy said it is selecting panels from a list that includes Canadian Solar, Hanwha Qcells, JA Solar, Jinko, Longi, Risen, SunPower, and Trina.  Invenergy secured the contracts for more than 2,500 acres of land. Initial designs call for the solar arrays to use 1,400 acres for the array, spacing, fencing, and access roads.

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) estimates the solar industry employs nearly 3,000 people in Wisconsin. The 837MW installed to date ranks the state as 24th in the nation in deployment, according to SEIA. SEIA projects 3,739MW of deployment in five years in Wisconsin.

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