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Sunshine State To Become Home of Largest Solar Plant

March 29, 2019
A Florida plant built by NextEra Energy is planned to exceed 480 megawatts, quadruple any currently operating system.

Last year, a company won a contract to build a 65-megawatt solar and battery farm in Arizona. A month later, the Saudis came out with a $200 billion plan to build the world’s biggest battery-backed solar farm by 2030. Then a firm proposed a nearly 500-megawatt solar-storage site in Texas’s oil patch.

The race to build the biggest solar-battery plant is officially on.

And the latest to join the competition is renewable energy giant NextEra Energy Inc., which said Thursday that it’ll build a project in Florida that will claim the title of the largest solar-powered battery in the world. The 409-megawatt battery will be added to an existing 74.5-megawatt solar plant on the west coast of the state near Tampa, a company statement shows.

The project would be four times larger than any other battery system in operation. It’s all a testament to how powerful of a combination solar and storage has become. Batteries and renewable energy paired together are now threatening the economics of fossil fuel-fired power plants around the world. A BloombergNEF analysis issued this week showed storage is now, for the first time, the cheapest option for meeting peak power demand in some cases.

“As the price of battery and solar technology continue to fall and as we learn how to optimize this technology in multiple ways to best serve our customers, we are going to be seeing more battery technology throughout our system,’’ NextEra spokeswoman Alys Daly said in an interview.

What BloombergNEF Says

“This is further evidence of a trend that is becoming increasingly commonplace across the United States of solar plus storage displacing gas powered plants. It is considered in many states a genuine alternative to gas assets.” Logan Goldie-Scot, energy storage analyst

NextEra’s project, slated to be in operation in 2021, will replace 1,638 megawatts of natural gas-fired generation at the site that will be retired once the battery system is in service. The company said the solar farm cost $100 million but declined to give a estimate for the battery portion of its project.

The next-largest battery in operation is a 100-megawatt storage project in Australia. But with the average cost of a lithium-ion battery pack down 85 percent, more projects are being developed around the world.

Here are details on some of the other big solar-battery farms being proposed:

Saudia Arabia partnered with SoftBank Group Corp. last March for its project to build massive networks of photovoltaic panels across the sun-drenched desert kingdom backed by a storage system for when the sun isn’t shining. If actually constructed, the 200-gigawatt project would dwarf any other proposed in the world. In Texas, IP Juno, a unit of San Francisco-based Intersect Power LLC, outlined plans to Texas’s power grid operator for a 495-megawatt storage system that would be built in tandem with a solar farm of the same size in Borden County, Texas. The projects were proposed to be completed in 2021. Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners is proposing to install 690 megawatts of solar and as much as 200 megawatts of batteries on almost 44,000 acres of federal land about 25 miles (40 kilometers) northeast of downtown Las Vegas. First Solar Inc. won a power contract to supply Arizona’s biggest utility with a 65-megawatt solar farm that will, in turn, feed a 50-megawatt battery system.

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