Renewable Energy Update – January 2021

California’s looming decision on grid reliability: expand supply or manage demand? 
Greentech Media – January 5
California is facing a major decision under a tight deadline — whether it should push for large-scale power plants and batteries to prevent a repeat of its August 2020 rolling blackouts this coming summer or turn to behind-the-meter resources such as batteries and demand response. Last week, the California Public Utilities Commission (“CPUC”) issued a ruling asking the state’s three big investor-owned utilities to seek measures to expand supply-side capacity before August 2021. The options could include expanding existing power plants, adding new utility-scale battery capacity, and securing contracts from out-of-state resources. The California Independent System Operator has proposed expanding its reserve margins and using its emergency procurement authority to enlist resources that can supply electricity in hot evening hours when California’s solar power is fading. Demand-side solutions — behind-the-meter batteries, smart thermostats, and commercial and industrial demand response — may well be a more realistic set of options to meet the deadline.
Boston zoning change would require net-zero emissions from new buildings 
Renewable Energy World – January 6
The city of Boston is laying plans to require newly constructed large buildings to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, a move supporters hope will help make carbon-neutral design more approachable and mainstream. While the details are still under development, the new requirements will modify existing green building zoning guidelines that apply to projects larger than 50,000 square feet, a threshold that includes about two-thirds of all new construction in the city. Over time, the threshold is likely to fall, encompassing more and more buildings. The regulations will be part of a zoning initiative rather than a building code. Building codes are determined at the state level, and individual municipalities may not enact stricter codes than those set forth by the state. Efforts are underway to require the building code board to adopt a net-zero “stretch code” — a set of more stringent rules towns and cities can choose to adopt. In the meantime, Boston is approaching its climate goals through the zoning process.

Why green hydrogen is the renewable energy source to watch in 2021 
ABC News – December 13
Green hydrogen, an alternative fuel generated with clean energy, is experiencing a global resurgence and has been identified as the clean energy source that could help bring the world to net-zero emissions in the coming decades. President-elect Joe Biden is promising that the U.S. will be able to access green hydrogen at the same cost as conventional hydrogen within a decade as part of his Clean Energy Plan. Several countries around the world already invest heavily into it, including Chile, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Germany, and Australia. The market for green hydrogen is expected to grow exponentially in the coming decade. In fact, green hydrogen is forecast to fill 15% to 20% of the world’s energy needs which will not be easily met with battery, wind, or solar power, according to Gregory Nemet, professor of public affairs at the University of Wisconsin’s Energy Institute. Ultimately, experts agree that the use of green hydrogen must be implemented if countries are to meet any of the climate pledges they have made in the Paris Agreement and beyond.

Pattern Energy begins work on New Mexico transmission line 
Associated Press – January 4
Financing is in place and work has started on a major transmission line that will funnel wind power from central New Mexico to other markets. The California-based company, Pattern Energy Group, expects the Western Spirit transmission line of 150-miles and its four wind farms with a total of more than a gigawatt of capacity to come online by the end of 2021. New Mexico’s largest electric utility–Public Service Co. of New Mexico–will own and operate the transmission line when complete. The company CEO Mike Garland called it the largest single-phase construction of renewable power in the U.S.

Nation’s largest solar farm in Tulare County 
The Sun Gazette – December 20
The nation’s largest solar farm, the “Rexford Solar Project,” a 700-megawatt (“MW”) project (with an equivalent amount of storage capacity), is sited on 3,600 acres in Tulare County. The company building the project, 8Minute, anticipates that the project will result in an investment of over $200 million in Tulare County directly and up to $1.1 billion indirectly. The company already signed a 25-year agreement to provide electricity to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power; and a 15-year power purchase agreement with the Clean Power Alliance to sell 400 megawatts of the first phase of the project to serve customers in unincorporated Los Angeles and Ventura counties. The project is expected to start construction next year and to come online by the end of 2023.

Vistra switches on 300-MW California battery 
reNews – January 7
Vistra has grid connected a 300-MW battery storage system in Monterey County. The 300-MW/1200-MWh Moss Landing energy storage facility located on-site at Vistra’s Moss Landing power plant is reportedly the largest of its kind in the world. Construction is now underway on phase two, which will add an additional 100-MW/400-MWh to the facility by August 2021.

East Bay Community Energy aims for 100% clean energy by 2030 
Pleasanton Weekly – January 6
East Bay Community Energy (“EBCE”) recently committed to providing nearly 1.7 million local customers with 100% renewable energy in the next decade, 15 years ahead of the state’s target date. The action makes EBCE one of the country’s largest electricity providers to commit to 100% renewable power in the next ten years, and also sets the stage for taking “bold action to fight climate change while addressing the needs of our community,” officials said in a statement.