$1B Solar Project Signed Off by Trump Admin
Last Monday (May 11), the Trump administration officially approved the construction of the Gemini Solar Project, a 690-megawatt project slated to be constructed just outside of Las Vegas.
Gemini Solar Project
Although the project had been waiting on a final permit and an additional U.S. Clean Water Act review, the U.S. Department of the Interior has announced its sign off on the project. The solar farm is slated to take up 7,100 acres of federal lands in the Mojave Desert.
“This action is about getting Americans back to work, strengthening communities and promoting investment in American energy,” said Casey Hammond, principal deputy assistant secretary at the DOI, in a statement.
During construction, the project is expected to create 2,000 jobs and inject roughly $712.5 million into the nation’s economy.
In addition to the farm’s ability to produce 690 MW of power, it will also house 380 MW of power storage, consisting of four-hour lithium-ion batteries.
Australia-based Quinbrook Infrastructure Partner, serving as developer, is working in collaboration with California-based Arevia Power, which is working on managing the project’s development phases. The Public Utilities Commission granted NV Energy approval to add the solar farm in December, an endeavor that will help move the utility company toward being compliant with renewable energy measure Senate Bill 358, which mandates that utilities in Nevada draw at least half of their power from renewable resources by 2030.
Project development will also include restoration techniques to help mitigate damage to local plant populations, but there is still a risk of “potential permanent and temporary impacts to cacti and yucca,” including “mortality, morbidity, and disturbance to individuals or populations.” Relocation of local wildlife was also recommended, though reintroduction of native life is also an option when Gemini is completed.
In January, the DOI announced it would be approving the endeavor, however, the Bureau of Land Management opened a public protest period, which lasted until Jan. 27.
This decision from the PUCN clears the path for Quinbrook to progress into the final stages of project design and procurement planning for what could be one of the world’s largest ever renewables projects,” said David Scaysbrook, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Quinbrook said at the time.
“Gemini plans to showcase at scale what we believe to be one of the most promising technological advances in renewable power. The project will demonstrate the ability to couple solar PV technology with battery storage to capture and use Nevada’s abundant renewable solar resource to deliver low cost power to NV Energy’s customers and keep the lights on long after the sun has set.”
Once completed in 2023, the solar farm will be able to produce enough electricity to power 260,000 households in Las Vegas and potentially parts of Southern California, in addition to offsetting greenhouse emissions of about 83,000 cars.
The endeavor serves NV Energy, in part of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate, as the utility works to meet Nevada’s state requirement for 50% renewables by 2030 and 100% clean energy by 2050.
Other U.S. Solar Projects
In January 2019, PaintSquare Daily News reported that activists had successfully pushed the conversion of a former coal-and-oil plant, located in Holyoke, Massachusetts, into an area for a solar farm.
The Mount Tom Power Station, in operation for more than 50 years and closed in 2014, now features over 17,208 solar panels and a battery storage system. Collectively, the solar farm puts out 5.8 MW of power, a significant drop from the site’s former 146 MW.
According to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, the endeavor is the largest community solar project in the state. Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Judith Judson told the Gazette at the time that there were 86,000 distributed solar projects across Massachusetts.
That same month, solar energy generation and transmission cooperative Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, working in collaboration with juwi, the U.S. subsidiary of Germany-based renewable energy company juwi AG, announced plans for a 100-megawatt solar project near Trinidad, Colorado.
The 660-acre project is to include more than 300,000 photovoltaic solar panels on single axis tracking arrays to follow the course of the sun. Construction is expected to begin in 2022, and is slated for completion in 2023.
In reviewing the data regarding the Section 201 tariff on solar cells and modules, the Commission collected information from the calendar years 2016, 2017 and 2018, in addition to interim periods January-June 2018 and January-June 2019.
The Commission also received questionnaire responses from 17 U.S. firms estimated to have accounted for more than 90% of known U.S. capacity to produce CSPV cells in 2018 and from 55 firms estimated to have accounted for 84% of U.S. imports of CSPV cells and modules in 2018. Additionally, the Commission also received responses from 43 U.S. purchasers and 46 foreign producers.
As noted in its report regarding CSPV cells, “imports increased from 2017 to 2018 and were higher in the first half of 2019 compared with the first half of 2018. The financial performance of the cell producers generally declined. Additionally, there were changes to the character of certain U.S. CSPV cell operations (i.e., Suniva bankruptcy and SunPower acquisition of SolarWorld) that affected the implementation of adjustment plans.”
Oppositely, CSPV modules imports were reported to decline from 2017 to 2018 but were also higher in the first half of 2019 compared with the first half of 2018. The report also noted that multiple large CSPV module producers opened production facilities in the U.S., which lead to an increase in domestic module production capacity, production, and market share from 2017 to 2018 and from the first half of 2018 to the first half of 2019. Overall module producers’ financial performance showed mixed results.
According to Solar Energy Industries Association, the industry would be doing better without the tariffs in place and as a result of them, have already negatively affected the industry by preventing an estimated 62,000 jobs, cost $19 billion in industry investments, and resulted in 10 fewer gigawatts in domestic solar power capacity nationally.