NEWS: Corporations Take Advanced Energy Into Their Own Hands; Solar + Storage like Peanut Butter and Chocolate

Posted by Lexie Briggs on Sep 23, 2016 12:12:49 PM


Apple's new 50 MW solar farm, built in partnership with AEE member First Solar, will supply Apple’s data center in Arizona.

They say, “if you build it they will come,” but in the case of advanced energy, they might just build it themselves. Major companies are making major investments in renewable energy development: Amazon, Johnson & Johnson, and Apple are upping their commitments. Plus, energy storage (and particularly solar + storage) continues to change the game. That’s what in the news this week.

The wind blows strong in West Texas. After last week’s announcement from Johnson & Johnson about the purchase of 100 MW of wind generation power from a West Texas facility, this week, AEE member Amazon announced it would be the primary investor in a 253 MW wind farm there. The wind farm is called, appropriately enough, Amazon Wind Farm Texas, and it is Amazon’s largest advanced energy project to date, though certainly not their first. We previously reported on the 208 MW Amazon Wind Farm U.S. East, in North Carolina, which began construction last year, and is expected to go online in December. Additionally, the online retailer has a solar farm in Virginia expected to come online in October, a 150 MW wind farm in Benton County, Ind., and another wind facility in Ohio. Together, these five facilities will generate enough power for 150,000 U.S. homes annually, which, according to Amazon, is slightly larger than the size of Cleveland, Ohio.

Amazon has committed to purchasing 90% of the power generated at the Texas wind farm, which will be owned and operated by Lincoln Clean Energy. The project is expected to start delivering power to the grid in late 2017.

For its part, AEE member Apple reaffirmed its corporate commitment to 100% renewable energy this week. Computerworld reports that the company has joined RE100, which is an international effort to have corporations set public goals to procure 100% of their electricity from renewables by a specified year. 

“Apple is committed to running on 100 percent renewable energy, and we’re happy to stand beside other companies that are working toward the same effort,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president for Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives. “We’re excited to share the industry-leading work we've been doing to drive renewable energy into the manufacturing supply chain.”

The company announced its intention to have its manufacturing supply chain entirely powered with renewable energy last year. Wall Street Journal’s Digits blog reported at the time that Apple’s supply chain used 60 times as much power as the company’s facilities. All of Apple’s U.S. data centers and corporate facilities have been powered by renewable energy since 2014. As of 2015, all of Apple’s U.S. facilities and 93% of its global operations are entirely powered by renewable energy. Just this week, the company unveiled a new solar farm (pictured above) that will power its Arizona data center. According to Apple’s press release, its suppliers’ commitments to renewable energy will represent more than 1.5 billion kilowatt hours per year by the end of 2018.

As companies like Apple, Amazon, and Johnson & Johnson sign power purchase agreements, build rooftop solar installations, install energy storage solutions, and develop fuel cell facilities, impressive national growth trends obscure the important fact that, in many states, the options to pursue such projects are limited at best. Earlier this year, Advanced Energy Economy Institute commissioned Meister Consultants Group (MCG) to consider opportunities to increase corporate access to advanced energy through policy changes at the state level. What MCG found is six policies that would give corporate purchasers the renewable energy they are looking for, and 11 states that could reap the benefits of the advanced energy development that would result. You can download that report here

Meanwhile, in energy storage, AEE member Tesla had a very good week. The company’s first grid-scale Powerpack storage system in Europe was brought online in Somerset, England, to provide ancillary services to the grid. Energy Storage News quotes Chris Roberts, director at Poweri Services, which was involved in the construction, “It’s a great modular technology I must admit. It's slotted together like Lego really...It's a very elegant product that's been very well thought through. There's nothing that I can see that would cause a problem in deploying these in large numbers.” 

Southern California Edison might just agree. The utility announced this week that it had selected Tesla to build a storage system at the Mira Loma substation. The system, which will be able to store 80 MWh of energy, is expected to be operational by December 31. A spokesperson for SoCal Edison said the company was ahead of schedule in meeting its 2016 storage targets. The utility also has a project under development with another AEE member, AES Corp, which is building a 100 MW system at the Alamitos Power Center in Long Beach.

Here’s another saying to close us out: solar + storage go together like peanut butter and chocolate. That one might not be in common parlance just yet, but it’s true; just ask Duke Energy. As Greentech Media reports, Duke’s solar + storage microgrid test site in Charlotte North Carolina has “self-islanded” twice so far this year when the grid was threatened by extreme weather. The test site is a fire station connected to a substation with both a solar array and a lithium-ion battery. In two instances this year, the system was able to detect a threat to the grid, disconnect, and keep the lights on at the fire station until the grid was no longer at risk.

As Tom Fenimore, technology development manager at Duke’s Emerging Technology Office noted to Greentech Media, the grid didn’t go down in either instance, but that’s okay. “We don’t wait for the circuit to go down. We sense that it may go down and act accordingly,” he said. The point is not waiting for a disaster, but rather to be ready for it. Just another case of advanced energy making sure the lights stay on!

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Topics: News Update