NEWS: LIPA Contracts for Offshore Wind, Solar Stabilizes the Grid, Tesla Builds a Bigger Battery

Posted by Lexie Briggs on Jan 27, 2017 11:57:03 AM


Image of Block Island Wind Farm, Rhode Island. 

This week, advanced energy brought winds of prosperity to all corners. New York’s Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) this week approved a plan to build the largest offshore wind farm in the U.S. to date, and with more to come. And AEE members show how solar power and storage can take on functions normally assigned to peaker plants. Just another week in advanced energy news.

On Wednesday, LIPA approved a contract to build the nation’s largest offshore wind project to date, to be located off the eastern-most coast of Long Island, about 35 miles from Montauk. The $740 million project will place 15 wind turbines, for 90 MW of capacity, in the water, but that’s just the beginning. The project’s developer, Deepwater Wind, is leasing a 256-square-mile parcel from the federal government, with space for as many as 200 turbines. For its part, LIPA is not done with offshore wind either. 

“We’re developing this first offshore wind project in federal waters, but it’s really a gateway project to other locations around Long Island,” said Thomas Falcone, the power authority’s chief executive, in an interview with the New York Times. “We’re now at a point where developers can build projects at prices where utilities are willing buyers, and to me that is a very big deal.”

This project will advance Gov. Cuomo’s proposed goal of 50% renewable energy by 2030, which includes a goal of 2.4 GW of offshore wind power. The town of East Hampton, to which the turbines will be connected, is looking to source all its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

When Block Island’s five wind turbines came online last year, the decade-long fight to install the first offshore wind farm in the U.S. was over, but the industry was just getting started. According to a new report out from several offshore wind leaders, including AEE member DONG Energy, and reported by the Independent in the United Kingdom (which has been generating electricity from offshore wind for years), the cost of electricity from offshore wind is down by a third.

Four years ago, the U.K. government asked the industry to lower prices to £100 per MWh by 2020, but the industry recently confirmed a price of about £97 per MWh. Independent reports that the lower cost of wind turbines and better techniques for building at sea have contributed to the drop in cost.

Meanwhile, in California, AEE members First Solar and CAISO have proven that solar plants can help to stabilize the grid. Last week the company and the grid operator released a report based on a test last summer, described here by Greentech Media:

Over a series of days in August, First Solar slightly curtailed power output at a 300-megawatt solar farm in California, enabled its array of inverters, and plugged into CAISO’s system. It then orchestrated the plant’s output to follow CAISO’s automatic generation control (AGC) signals, respond to its frequency regulation commands, and use inverters for voltage regulation, power factor regulation and reactive power control.

Typically, utilities rely on natural gas-fired peaker plants to regulate frequency. In this case, First Solar was able to fulfill that role.

Another AEE member, Tesla Energy, has installed an 80 MWh Powerpack 2 battery at Southern California Edison’s Mira Loma substation. The project, announced last September, is the largest lithium-ion storage facility. SCE started exploring aggressive storage solutions after the shut down of the Aliso Canyon natural gas reservoir, after a catastrophic rupture in 2015.

“If it proves successful,” writes Fred Lambert, “the project could serve as an example to decommission more peaker plants and replace them with battery-powered energy storage installations.”

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Topics: News Update