rPlus Energies hosts 200 MW Utah solar facility ground-breaking

rPlus Energies Utility Solar Project


rPlus Energies, a Salt Lake City-based renewable energy developer, hosted a groundbreaking ceremony this week for the construction of the 200 MW Appaloosa I solar project in Iron County, Utah, the second largest utility solar facility in Utah to date.

The Appaloosa facility groundbreaking follows the 400 MW solar plus 200 MW storage Green River Energy Center earlier this year, and 80 MW Three Peaks Solar facility from 2016, both of which are rPlus Energies projects. It is among the largest projects in the state.

Despite a challenging year grappling with ongoing global supply chain disruption in the utility solar market, Luigi Resta, CEO of rPlus Energies, told pv magazine USA the project developer continues to execute on a 1.2 GW development portfolio against a broader 13 GW multi-year project pipeline with solar as well as energy storage, wind and pumped hydro storage assets.

For Appaloosa, the company circumnavigated supply chain and commodity market challenges by going with a new module supplier, ET Solar, utilizing ET-M772 540 watt bi-facial modules for the ground-mounted project, Resta said.  The 540W modules carry a 20.9% efficiency rating and feature a mono-crystalline PERC solar cell mounted in an anodized aluminum alloy frame.

Additional components used include Sungrow utility-scale inverters, Nextracker racking hardware and Shoals Technologies wire harnessing and coupling equipment, Resta said.

For Green River Energy Center, Resta said the company has yet to select the distributor of the 200 MW battery storage systems, but said the system would use a traditional two-hour dispatch lithium-ion battery system.

Sundt Construction, Bodec and BHICO are providing electrical and general contracting services for the Appaloosa project construction, Resta said.

Portfolio diversification

To date, rPlus has developed solar, wind power, storage and pumped hydro power projects in 16 states in the Western region of the U.S. While the company has felt direct exposure to commodity and supply chain disruptions following the Covid-19 pandemic, Resta said the company has tried to mitigate exposure to the solar market by developing projects across four asset classes.

The company has also sold projects and sought project equity and debt financing from Greenbacker Capital, which is investing in Appaloosa I as well as other prior projects, among other potential investors.

Salt Lake City-based rPlus Energies was formed in 2018 and is owned by the Gardner Company, a Utah-based family office and commercial real estate developer. Prior to rPlus, Resta spent over a decade at Scatec Solar, Onyx Renewable Partners, a Blackstone Group company, and AMG Energy, in various project development management roles.

Commercial offtake flexibility

Meta, the operator of Facebook, is the Schedule 34 offtake power purchaser of power generated by Appaloosa as well as Graphite Solar, an 80 MW solar project in Carbon County, Utah.  Pacificorp, a Berkshire Hathaway utility, also purchases power from Appaloosa as well as the other Utah solar facilities.

Resta explained that corporate purchasers like Meta are able to procure power from rPlus facilities in Utah under Rocky Mountain Power’s Schedule 34 green energy tariff, a utility tariff which allows the Utah utility to execute power agreements in excess of 5,000 kW on behalf of large corporate customers.

According to SEIA, Utah is the 12th largest installer of solar projects in the U.S. with 2.73 GW installed through September 30, of which utility projects remains the majority demographic, with a 1.9 GW development pipeline over the next five years across each sub-sector.  About $512 million in capital investment poured into the Beehive State in 2021.

Prior to the announced Green River Energy Center, D.E. Shaw Renewables Investments’ 230.6 MW Cove Mountain project in Beryl, Utah held the claim to largest solar PV project constructed in Utah.

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