Los Angeles says “Yes” to the cheapest solar plus storage in the USA

  • Sep 11, 2019
  • PV Magazine

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to approve a power purchase agreement (PPA) with 8minute Solar Energy for a solar power plus energy storage facility located in Kern County, California. Now that the LADWP commission has approved the project, it will move to a vote with the Los Angeles City Council before it can be delivered to the Mayor’s desk for a final signature. The project’s guaranteed commercial operation date is December 31, 2023 – about 12 years after it was initially filed in early 2012.

The LADWP portion of the 25 year PPA is for 375 MWac of solar power coupled with 385.5 MW / 1,150 MWh of energy storage, while Glendale Water and Power took the other 25 MWac of solar plus 12.5 MW / 50 MWh of energy – totaling 400 MWac of solar plus plus 300 MW / 1.2 GWh of energy storage. LADWP will pay about $1.1 billion over the 25-year contract.

When pv magazine USA originally reported on the project, it was suggested that it would be up to 400 MWac of solar plus 200 MW / 800 MWh of energy storage – which would be priced, in aggregate, at 3.297¢/kWh. The final version of the project delivered will in fact be a 300 MW / 1.2 GWh energy storage installation – with an aggregate pricing of 3.962¢/kWh.

The project was originally offered at a record US price of 1.997¢/kWh for solar power alone, but the prices have increased with the energy storage adders – so we, technically, might no longer have a record low solar power price with this project. One might argue that the NV Energy contract 8minute signed for 2.376¢/kWh is still the cheapest “solar” in the USA, with this project being the cheapest “solar+storage” whose price has been revealed to date.

The image below, from a presentation by team members shows the project broken into Phase 1 and 2, each 200 MWac of solar and 100 MW / 400 MWh of energy storage. At the bottom of the image, the energy storage expansion is described – noting a 0.665¢/kWh adder, and that the two projects would meet 3.8% of the city’s renewable portfolio standard in 2025.

Kern County, California has many thousands of pages of PDFs describing the environmental aspects of the project. The project brought together 22 real property agreements – including many transmission easements, as well as land options and purchase agreements.

The total amount of electricity to be produced by the facility is still a bit fuzzy.

The 175 MWac project contract states the site is expected to deliver 778,577 MWh of electricity in the “initial stub year”, with 80% of that value guaranteed – but an option that 120% might be delivered (below image). As well, if there is “excess energy”, that is electricity that is greater than the 120% value, the customer is obligated to purchase such electricity – but at a discounted price of 1.154¢/kWh.

An LADWP internal presentation note suggested that the board ought expect some excess energy purchases if the technology that 8minute implements advances faster than it was projected to already advance.

CEO Tom Buttgenbach noted in a conversation with Sammy Roth of the Los Angeles Times that if the city were to increase the amount of energy storage from 200 MW to 300 MW, it would bring the AC capacity factor to 60%. This 60% capacity factor is a big step leading up toward potential 24/7 PV plants Buttgenbach suggests might come to pass within five years, and are already on the drawing board. A 60% capacity factor on a 400 MWac solar power plant would suggest just over 1,000,000 MWh delivered during the year – right about 135% of the project’s projected first year delivery volume of 778,577.

What the heck has ‘ol Tom B got up his sleeve to squeeze an extra almost 275,000 kWh out of his site?

As well, as a bonus for reading to the end of this article – in the May version of the contract, we found a preliminary draft one line diagram of the project. Enjoy!

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