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Solar After Sunset

Arizona Public Service customers will soon be powering their evening dinners, prime-time television programs and bedtime reading lights with a cleaner energy mix. That news comes from Jeff Burke, the director of resource planning at APS, as the utility announces its initiative to add massive battery storage to its existing solar power plants, stand-alone energy storage and build new solar facilities with storage.
    “This is big and coming on quickly,” said Burke. This will be one of the largest solar battery storage installations to date in the industry – bigger than all the batteries installed across the U.S. combined last year.”

The effort is designed to provide solar power after the sun sets. “That is really important in going forward with our clean energy mix,” he said. “During Arizona’s hot summertime, we’ll be able to charge batteries early in the morning. As the sun goes down, use of electricity goes up and is at its most expensive. We’ll soon be able to use that excess solar energy on the grid so we can provide clean resources to our customers at an affordable cost.”

Traditionally, the additional energy needed to meet customers’ peak demand in the summer has been generated from natural gas. With this new direction, Burke says APS will use 150 megawatts of solar-fueled battery storage to meet part of the demand when energy usage peaks. 

APS currently provides customers with an energy mix that is 50 percent clean and getting cleaner, say officials. The latest initiative will add 850 megawatts of battery storage and at least 100 megawatts of new solar generation by 2025, for a total of 950 megawatts of new clean-energy technology. 

The addition of 850 megawatts of new clean resources to APS’s portfolio is estimated to provide enough power to meet the peak requirement of up to 275,000 residential customers on an average summer day.

“Another way to put it into perspective is that these new clean energy projects are the equivalent of adding the power of more than three million solar panels, or more than 9,000 electric cars to Arizona’s energy mix,” explained Burke.

He added that the battery storage plan is now possible because technology is maturing and costs associated with solar battery storage are declining. “We’re finding opportunities to pair the two together and make sure we can still maintain reliable, affordable service.”

“This represents a major down payment on Arizona’s continued progress toward an energy future that is clean, reliable and affordable,” said APS Chairman and CEO Don Brandt. “Arizona is already a national leader in solar energy. The challenge is, no one has figured out how to stop the sun from setting at night. As storage technology improves and declines in cost, we will increasingly be able to store the power of the sun cost-effectively to deliver when our customers need it.”  

The first stage of the plan includes retrofitting all existing APS solar facilities and upgrading them with 200 megawatts of battery storage systems. A team led by Invenergy is scheduled to install six of the new battery systems at solar plants in Maricopa County and Yuma to be in place by 2020. Two more upgrades are expected to be completed by 2021. 

Meanwhile, APS plans to build an additional 500 megawatts of solar storage and stand-alone battery storage by 2025. The first project is a 100-megawatt solar-storage plant. APS is already partnering with Tempe-based First Solar to build a first-of-its-kind solar-plus-storage project that will be one of the largest in the country when completed in 2021.

Officials say the utility company plans to use less natural gas as cleaner technologies become available. 

“Large-scale battery storage is a critical step on the path to reliable and affordable clean-energy solutions,” said The Nature Conservancy State Director Pat Graham in a news release. “Clean energy and clean air are important to the health of our communities and the lands and water upon which all life depends.” FBN

By Bonnie Stevens, FBN

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