Solar deployment in the U.S. is expected to grow 40% this year, and by 2024, it is expected to reach 30 GW per year, or roughly 50% higher than 2022 totals. Much of this rapid growth in deployment will be carried by large, utility-scale projects, which the International Energy Agency expects to represent roughly three-quarters of the 30 GW annual total in 2024.
Utility-scale solar projects come in many shapes and sizes, from smaller sites near cities to large ones in remote areas. Below are five project and finance updates in the utility-scale sector.
Bowman 200 MW contract
Bowman Consulting group announced it has been awarded a $1.4 million engineering design contract by J. Ranck Electric, which primarily operates in Michigan. The deal builds on the $2.1 million in engineering contracts the company received from J. Ranck in late 2022.
The Midwest solar project will add 200 MW of solar capacity, making it among the largest solar facilities in the region. Bowman will provide civil design, electrical engineering for array design, and structural engineering for balance of systems equipment foundations.
The project site has flat topography, requiring Bowman to work closely with the local drainage commission to ensure compliance with regulations governing grading and drainage design relating to storm water management.
“Our extensive experience in utility-scale solar positions us to deliver these specialized services and keep pace with the market’s rapidly changing requirements,” said Dan Swayze, executive vice president of energy services, Bowman.
First Solar 279 MW order
Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) announced it has secured 279 MW of thin-film solar panels from First Solar for a planned solar project in Alabama.
The project will be located in Lawerence County, Alabama and is expected to commence operations in 2027. The region will also be home to a new vertically integrated First Solar manufacturing facility, which is expected to reach operations in 2025.
“Through our work with First Solar, TVA will continue to integrate more renewable generation into our overall portfolio with solar technology developed and manufactured in America,” said Roger Waldrep, vice president, TVA Major Projects.
Designed and developed at its R&D centers in California and Ohio, First Solar’s thin film modules set industry benchmarks for quality, durability, reliability, design, and environmental performance. The modules have among the lowest carbon and water footprint of any commercially available PV technology today.
National Grid to donate $500,00
National Grid Renewables pledged to donate over $500,000 to the New Underwood, South Dakota school district, sourced from revenues from its 128 MW Wild Springs solar project.
Wild Springs announced construction in early 2023 and is projected to be the largest solar project in the state, once completed. Wild Springs is anticipated to avoid 190,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually – the equivalent to removing roughly 42,000 cars from the road for one year. The project also expects to produce nearly $12 million in new tax revenue throughout the first 20 years of operation.
“The New Underwood School District appreciates the pledge of $25,000 per year for 20 years provided by the Wild Springs Education Fund,” said Katie Albers, superintendent of the New Underwood School District. “The district will use these funds in a variety of ways to benefit our students, school and community.”
First Citizens Bank funds 200 MW project
First Citizens Bank announced its CIT division served as sole lead arranger on $211 million in financing for the 200 MW Oak Solar project in Gaston, North Carolina.
SunEnergy1 LLC stated plans to build the facility in two phases, selling 100% of the project’s electricity generation to the McDonald’s Corporation under a 17 year power purchase agreement. The financing package included a term loan, letter of credit and a bridge loan. The financing arrangement is yet another example of the boom of corporate solar procurement.
“SunEnergy1 is well known throughout the industry for its skill and experience in developing and operating utility-scale solar facilities,” said Mike Lorusso, managing director for the bank’s Energy Finance group. “We were pleased to support our client with a financing package that meets their business needs.”
Altus Power solar-plus-storage
Occupying a slightly different space than the above projects, Altus Power announced it added a 10 MW solar plus 15 MWh battery energy storage facility to its portfolio in Massachusetts. The project will deliver electricity under long-term agreements with a regional supermarket and community solar customers under the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources SMART program.
“Battery storage is an important tool for local utilities to ensure grid stability as they increase their reliance on renewable electricity,” said Gregg Felton, co-chief executive officer and co-founder, Altus Power. “In addition, we expect storage will increasingly be paired with Altus Power solar arrays for customers interested in clean, on-site backup power and electric vehicle charging.”
The Holliston project was developed in partnership with REA, one of Altus Power’s long-standing channel partners, and adds to the 116 MW of solar arrays owned and operated by Altus Power in Massachusetts.
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