NV Energy, a public utility that serves the state of Nevada in the US, submitted its three-year Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) to the Public Utility Commission of Nevada (PUCN) on June 1. The goal of the IRP is to facilitate Nevada’s energy transition and ultimately attain carbon neutrality for the state by 2050. Included in the plan are two new solar-plus-storage projects that have a total generation capacity of 600MW and a total storage capacity of 480MW.
The two new storage-plus-solar projects will replace a 522MW coal-fired power plant called North Valmy Generation Station that is located in the northern part of the state by 2025. Co-owned by NV Energy and Idaho Power, the North Valmy Generation Station is actually the last operating coal-fired power plant in Nevada. According to its decommissioning timetable, one of the two generation units of the plant will shut down in 2021, and the other generation unit will be taken out of service later in 2025.
The two new solar-plus-storage projects that were introduced in the IRP are named the Iron Point Solar Project and the Hot Pot Solar Project. The former will have a generation capacity of 250MW and a storage capacity of 200MW, whereas the latter will have a generation capacity of 350MW and a storage capacity of 280MW. Both projects will be placed in Humboldt County, where the North Valmy Generation Stations is also located; and both will be built by Primergy Solar. The Iron Point Solar Project is scheduled to enter operation in December 2023, whereas the Hot Pot Solar Project will go online sometime in 2024. Together, they will be able to meet the electricity demand of 127,000 homes.
Thanks to advancements in energy storage technologies, PV power plants now have a chance to replace coal-fired power plants for baseload operation. Examples are now appearing in the Midwest of the US and Australia. For instance, the Public Service Company of New Mexico will shut down the 847MW coal-fired San Juan Generating Station in 2022. The electricity supply gap that will result from the retirement of the plant will be filled by four solar-plus-storage projects. Also, Vistra energy, a major power producer in the US, is lobbying the state legislature of Illinois for the passage of a bill to build solar-plus-storage projects at the sites of decommissioned coal-fired power plants. Vistra is currently in the process of retiring its coal-fired power plants in Illinois and Ohio. At least one is being closed ahead of schedule due to financial pressure.
Primergy Solar is a portfolio company launched in May 2020 by Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners, a private equity firm that specializes in renewable energy infrastructure. The role of Primergy is to acquire, develop, and operate PV power plants and battery energy storage plants across North America. Its most important project in development is the Gemini Project. Also located in Nevada, this integrated solar and battery energy storage base will have a generation capacity of 690MW and a storage capacity of 1.4GW. It is also dubbed the largest of its kind to date.
In addition to the two new solar-plus-storage projects for replacing the North Valmy Generation Station, the IRP submitted by NV Energy also includes three new standalone grid-connected battery energy storage facilities, a demand response scheme, and a pilot program for introducing integrated solar and battery energy storage systems to underserved communities. With a total storage capacity of 66MW, the three battery energy storage facilities will dispatch power to the grid during the peak demand periods so as to mitigate potential supply shortages and minimize the related costs of importing electricity from elsewhere.
NV Energy expects PUCN to make a decision on the IRP by the end of this year. As a major public utility in Nevada, NV Energy has taken actions to support the state’s aim of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. For instance, it had already procured around 1GW of battery energy storage capacity by March 2020 in accordance with the quota set by PUCN. Also in the summer of 2020, NV Energy submitted a plan to build three solar-plus-storage projects (that are unrelated to the ones presented in the IRP). The proposal was greenlighted by PUCN.