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The U.S. is poised to add a record 33 gigawatts (GW) of solar production capacity in 2023, up 55% compared to 2022, as its growth streak continues—led by the utility-scale segment.
However, growth is forecast to slow in the coming years amid economic and interconnection challenges. This is according to a report released this week by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and Wood Mackenzie.
“Solar remains the fastest-growing energy source in the United States, and despite a difficult economic environment, this growth is expected to continue for years to come,” SEIA president and CEO Abigail Ross Hopper said in a statement. “To maintain this forecasted growth, we must modernize regulations and reduce bureaucratic roadblocks to make it easier for clean energy companies to invest capital and create jobs.”
For third-quarter 2023, the report showed the solar sector added 6.5 GW of new electric generating capacity, up 35% from a year earlier.
The increase comes as the industry players utilize federal incentives made possible by the Inflation Reduction Act. Solar players are also seeing improved supply chain conditions, including for modules. A record 12 GW of utility-scale solar was deployed in the first nine months of 2023, the report showed. The report also showed the utility-scale segment installed more than 4 GW in third-quarter 2023, up 58% compared to a year earlier when the supply chain issues caused installations to fall.
However, the utility-scale segment saw its lowest quarterly level of new contracts signed since 2018 due to higher financing costs, transformer shortages and interconnection bottlenecks. Some of these challenges are expected to linger as more renewables are added to power grids.
“The U.S. solar industry is on a strong growth trajectory, with expectations of 55% growth this year and 10% growth in 2024,” said Michelle Davis, head of solar research at Wood Mackenzie and lead author of the report. “Growth is expected to be slower starting in 2026 as various challenges like interconnection constraints become more acute. It’s critical that the industry continue to innovate to maximize the value that solar brings to an increasingly complex grid. Interconnection reform, regulatory modernization, and increasing storage attachment rates will be key tools.”
The forecast shows solar capacity in the U.S. could reach 377 GW by 2028, enough to power more than 65 million homes.
Here’s a look at other renewable energy project news this week:
Dominion Brings Battery Energy Storage System Online in Virginia
Virginia-based Dominion Energy brought its largest battery energy storage system online, the company said Dec. 7, capable of storing enough electricity to power 5,000 homes for up to four hours.
The Dry Bridge Battery Energy Storage System (BESS), which can store up to 20 megawatts (MW) of electricity. Located in Chesterfield County, Virginia, the system went online in late November, Dominion said.
“Batteries play an increasingly critical role in electric reliability as the company builds the largest offshore wind project in the U.S. and continues expanding the second-largest solar fleet in the nation,” Dominion said in the news release. “Batteries can store energy from renewables during periods of low demand and then discharge it to the grid during periods of high demand when customers need it the most.”
Dominion, developer of the 2.6-GW Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project, has focused on adding energy storage as it works to deliver reliable energy. Work is underway on a battery storage project at Dulles International Airport. When the 50-MW BESS comes online, it will be the company’s largest battery storage system. Dominion currently has three battery storage facilities in operation in Powhatan, New Kent and Hanover counties and two under development in Sussex and Loudoun counties.
Sila, Worley Partner For EPCM Services for Battery Materials Plant in WA
Battery materials company Sila partnered with Worley for engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) management services for a silicon anode materials plant being developed by Sila in Moses Lake, Washington, Worley said Dec. 6.
Sila’s silicon anode materials plant will have a battery material capacity of up to 150 gigawatt hours annually by 2028, enough to power 1 million electric vehicles for five years, according to the news release. Production is expected to begin in 2025.
“This factory will allow Sila to meet the volume and quality requirements of our auto customers,” Chris Dougher, vice president of operations for Sila, said in the release.
Called Titan Silicon, the silicon anode that will be manufactured at the plant is considered an alternative to traditional graphite anodes in lithium-ion batteries. The company claims it can increase battery energy density by 20%, which extends the range of batteries and speeds EV charge times.
Canadian Solar Lands Deal to Build UK Battery Storage Projects
Canadian Solar said e-STORAGE signed an EPC agreement with Engie for construction of the projects that will each have a capacity of 56.5 MW. Both sites, one in Cathkiin and the other in Broxburn, Scotland, will use e-STORAGE’s SolBank technology, a containerized system of lithium-iron-phosphate cells.
“Serving alongside Engie’s 2.1 GW of existing U.K. pumped storage assets at Dinorwig and Ffestiniog, these projects will build upon Engie’s position as a leader in power flexibility in the U.K.,” Aidan Connolly, head of Engie Battery Storage U.K., said in the release. “Engie is targeting 10 GW of global battery storage by 2030 to help facilitate the energy transition, and these two Scottish projects are another step on this journey.”
Combined, the projects are expected to support more than 40,000 homes when they are connected to Scotland’s 33-kilovolt distribution network in early 2025.
CIP Reaches FID on Coalburn I Battery Storage Project
Denmark-based fund manager Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners’ (CIP) Flagship Funds has taken a final investment decision (FID) and started construction on the 500-MW Coalburn 1 battery storage project in Scotland, according to a Dec. 5 news release.
“Achieving Final Investment Decision on one of the largest battery projects in Europe is a significant milestone for CIP,” CIP Partner Nischal Agarwal said in the release. “It demonstrates CIP’s industrial approach in identifying a market need and delivering a large-scale project with a robust contractual framework with high quality partners and counterparties.”
Canadian Solar’s e-STORAGE will deliver its SolBank proprietary energy storage solution for the project, while H&MV Engineering will carry out the balance of plant works, CIP said. SSE Energy Markets will provide the optimization services.
Coalburn 1, which started construction in November, is one of three battery storage projects being developed by CIP and partner Alcemi. An FID on the other two projects, with a combined capacity of more than 1 GW, is expected in 2024.
The developers aim to deploy a total of 4 GW of energy storage projects across the U.K., helping to reduce dependence on fossil fuel power generation.
ACWA Signs Deal to Develop $1B Green Hydrogen Facility in Indonesia
Water desalination company ACWA Power said Dec. 6 it plans to develop a $1 billion green hydrogen facility in Indonesia, making it the country’s largest.
Partnering with PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN), Indonesia’s state-owner electricity provider and PT Pupuk Indonesia, a state-owned fertilizer and chemical producer, ACWA said the Garuda Hidrogen Hijau (GH2) Project will run on 600 MW of solar and wind power to produce 150,000 tonnes of green ammonia per year. Commercial operations are scheduled to begin in 2026, ACWA said in the release.
“As we expand our footprint in Indonesia, we remain committed to supporting sustainable progress, for a greener future for all,” ACWA Power CEO Marco Arcelli said.
The agreement between ACWA, PLN and Pupuk Indonesia Holding Co. was signed during COP28 in Dubai.
The plans come as ACWA continues to grow its green hydrogen portfolio. ACWA is part of the joint venture with NEOM and Air Products that is developing the $8.4 billion NEOM green hydrogen facility in Saudi Arabia. The facility, which will be the world’s largest green hydrogen facility, will use up to 4 GW of solar and wind energy to produce 600 tonnes per day of hydrogen, in the form of green ammonia, by the end of 2026.
GM Hydrogen Unit to Supply Fuel Cells for Autocar’s Heavy Vehicles
General Motors and Autocar Industries agreed to jointly develop hydrogen-powered heavy vehicles powered by the No.1 U.S. automaker’s fuel cell unit Hydrotec, the two companies said on Dec. 7.
The first of the new zero-emission vehicles include cement mixers, dump trucks, refuse trucks, road maintenance vehicles and terminal tractors that are traditionally powered by diesel engines. They are expected to go into production in 2026 at Autocar's plant in Birmingham, Alabama.
“We want to enable zero tailpipe emissions solutions for the largest, highest energy consuming vehicles, and fuel cells are ideal for the most energy intensive applications,” Hydrotec executive director Charlie Freese said in a statement.
Hydrotec will provide “power cubes” consisting of more than 300 hydrogen fuel cells, along with “thermal and power management systems and proprietary controls.” The power cube provides 77 kilowatts of power.
Interest in hydrogen fuel cells to power trucks and vans has grown as fleet operators seek a more practical alternative to electric vehicles.
While most of the world’s combustion engine cars and short-distance vans and lorries should be replaced by battery electric vehicles over the next two decades, fuel-cell proponents and some long-haul fleet operators say batteries are too heavy, take too long to charge and could overload power grids. The same applies for heavy vehicles such as cement mixers, which would require enormous batteries to move any distance.
Ameresco, Sunel Start Construction of UK Solar Parks
Asset developer Ameresco Inc. and contractor Sunel began construction of solar park across England for renewable energy producer Sonnedix, according to a Dec. 7 news release.
Designed to generate about 300,000 megawatt-hours of renewable electricity per year, the five ground-mounted solar photovoltaic project parks include the Cowley Complex; Gonerby Solar; Winkburn Solar Farm; Gammaton Solar Farm; and Lawns Solar Farm.
Together, the parks are expected to produce enough energy to power 85,000 U.K. homes, avoiding 58,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually, the release stated. Construction is scheduled to finish in early 2025.
Sonnedix owns the portfolio and Ameresco Sunel Energy Ltd., a joint venture between Ameresco and Sunel, serves as the design build partner.
TotalEnergies, Kazakhstan Sign Agreement to Develop $1.4B Wind Farm
TotalEnergies signed an investment agreement to develop a more than 1-GW wind farm with a 600 megawatt-hour battery storage system in Kazakhstan, the company said in a news release Dec. 4. The agreement represents an investment of about $1.4 billion.
Called Mirny, the wind farm in Kazakhstan’s Zhambyl region would be the largest wind project for Kazakhstan, supplying more than 1 million people with electricity and avoiding the emission of 3.5 million tons of CO2 annually, TotalEnergies said.
“At COP28, more than 110 nations committed to tripling renewable energy capacity by 2030. TotalEnergies supports this call,” TotalEnergies CEO Patrick Pouyanné said in the release. “With this innovative wind and battery project, our company is making a direct contribution to this ambition and to the energy transition in Kazakhstan.”
The investment agreement comes about six months after TotalEnergies signed a 25-year power purchase agreement with the Financial Settlement Center of Renewable Energy, a public entity owned by the government of Kazahkstan, to supply power to the grid.
Mirny will be developed by TotalEnergies in partnership with the National Wealth Fund Samruk-Kazyna and Kazakhstan’s national oil company KazMunayGas, which will each own a 20% stake in the project, TotalEnergies said.
US Gives Final Nod to Rhode Island’s $1.5B Offshore Wind Farm
The U.S Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council on Dec. 7 approved the construction of a $1.5 billion offshore wind farm offshore Rhode Island.
Another offshore project by the two wind energy developers, the South Fork wind farm offshore New York, delivered its first power to the state's power grid on Dec. 6.
Offshore wind development has been a priority for the Biden administration. Yet soaring costs from rising inflation, high interest rates and delays in supply chains cast doubts on the White House’s goals for offshore wind power online by 2030.
Many developers canceled or opted to renegotiate power purchase contracts, saying previously agreed prices were too low to justify investments.
In March, the Rhode Island utility rejected Ørsted’s proposal to build Revolution Wind’s second stage, 884-MW Revolution Wind 2, saying it would be too costly for consumers.
Hart Energy Staff and Reuters contributed to this report.
2023-12-22 - OEG Renewables will deliver turnkey marine coordination solutions for the 1,022- megawatt Hai Long wind project offshore Taiwan.
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2023-12-22 - Production at EverGen’s Fraser Valley renewable natural gas project is expected to ramp up to the equivalent of 152 MMcf annually.
2024-01-24 - The oil and gas sector’s deep understanding of complex subsurface rock is helping to advance carbon capture and storage and other technologies.
2023-12-22 - Here is a look at some of this week’s renewable energy news, including RWE’s move to acquire three offshore wind projects for about $1.2 billion.