APS embarking on massive ‘solar after sunset’ initiative

As part of a commitment to increase investment in renewable energy sources, Arizona Public Service announced today that it is embarking on one of the largest battery storage initiatives in the country.

Residential and business customers will soon be able to power their homes and businesses with solar well after the sun sets thanks to three major clean-energy projects, company officials said.   

These initiatives will add an estimated 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. That’s enough to power an estimated 275,000 homes for one year.

“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,” Arizona Public Service (APS) Chairman Don Brandt said. “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.”  

APS officials showed off the battery storage technology today at Festival Ranch in Buckeye. U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry is expected to visit the site Friday.

The initiatives announced today involve adding battery storage to the company’s existing fleet of solar power plants and construction of new solar plants with storage.

This will allow APS to deliver cleaner energy to customers during times of peak energy usage, company officials said.

That’s good news for Arizona, said Pat Graham, the state director for The Nature Conservancy in Arizona.

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

The three-prong initiative involves:

Adding storage to existing solar plants APS is upgrading its large-scale solar plants across the state with new 200 megawatts of battery storage systems. A team led by Invenergy will install six of the new battery systems at solar plants in Maricopa County and Yuma over the next year. Another two upgrades will be completed by 2021.

Building new solar storage plants The company will build an additional 500 megawatts of solar storage and stand-alone battery storage by 2025. The first project will be a 100-megawatt solar-storage plant. APS expects to issue a request for proposals this summer. It already is 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.

Delivering more clean energy during peak usage times When solar production drops late in the afternoon and energy usage is still high, electricity companies need a reliable, flexible source of power to serve their customers. Traditionally, that source has been exclusively natural gas. Now, APS will have the capacity to use 150 megawatts of solar-fueled battery storage to meet part of the demand when energy usage peaks.  

Two energy storage technology companies will install the new systems, AES, a Fortune 500 company headquartered in Arlington, Va., and Invenergy that is based in Chicago.

APS also entered a seven year purchase agreement for additional natural gas from Calpine, the country’s largest generator of electricity from natural gas and geothermal resources. The short contract – which typically is for 20 years – will allow APS flexibility to take advantage of cleaner technologies in the future as older technology is replaced by clean energy and storage technologies.

The initiatives will escalate clean energy sources in Arizona and offer more choices for customers to control and manage their energy consumption, said Kelly Speakes-Backman, CEO of the Energy Storage Association (ESA), a national trade association dedicated to promoting energy storage.

“We especially applaud APS for partnering with third parties in this effort, sending a strong signal for businesses to invest in energy storage in Arizona,” Speakes-Backman said. “We look forward to that day when energy storage is the central tool for maintaining a reliable and resilient, efficient, sustainable and affordable grid.”

APS also operates Palo Verde Generating Station west of Phoenix that is the country’s largest producer of carbon-free energy. The plant provides energy for up to 4 million people, and generates 70 percent of Arizona’s clean energy.

For more information on APS’s solar storage and other clean-energy advances, visit www.azenergyfuture.com.  

Victoria Harker

Nick Serpa

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