Harnessing the Power of the Sun3 min read
It’s estimated 173,000 terawatts of solar energy strikes the earth continuously, which is more than 10,000 times the world’s total energy use. AMP and its members are working to harness some of this never-ending supply of free fuel through a multi-site solar generation project called Solar Phase II. Similar to AMP’s other distributive generation projects, Solar Phase II has more than 20 sites planned across AMP’s footprint.
AMP has a history of success in solar. The Napoleon Solar Facility, also known as Solar Phase I, has been a valuable generation asset for AMP and project participants since it came online in August 2012.
“Our members really want solar,” said President/CEO Marc Gerken. “Not only is it progressive, but our members’ customers want it too. The Phase II solar sites allow municipalities to show customers they are meeting expectations and needs.”
For Phase II efforts, AMP is teaming up with one of the largest owners of U.S. solar installations, NextEra Energy Resources.
AMP entered into a joint development agreement with DG AMP Solar, a wholly owned subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, for the development, construction and operation of up to 80 megawatts (MW) or more of new solar electric generation facilities. The two organizations executed a solar power purchase agreement (PPA) in March 2016.
“AMP has an existing relationship with NextEra as it is currently one of our biggest power suppliers,” said Gerken. “NextEra is a trusted partner and has access to cutting-edge technology. They are getting lower prices on panels than we could obtain independently, which is a savings through economies of scale to our members.”
Through DG AMP Solar subsidiary, NextEra will build, own and operate all solar sites and AMP will purchase output from the solar generation using a take and pay contract. AMP will prepay NextEra for a portion of the output, improving the economics even further. AMP and NextEra will remotely monitor the sites, and NextEra will be responsible for site upkeep, including services such as vegetation management.
There is an array of benefits from the Phase II project. In addition to being participant directed, the project is competitively priced, will provide portfolio diversification, and helps lower costs associated with capacity and transmission. Every megawatt hour of energy produced will also provide a solar renewable energy credit (SREC).
“Members don’t need to build a solar facility in their community in order to participate in the program,” said Pam Sullivan, executive vice president of power supply and generation. “Project participants will see the same benefits whether the installation is located in their municipality or not.”
AMP staff has been busy with the development work in preparation for NextEra to begin construction, including obtaining zoning approvals, property tax exemption applications, local permitting and extending the grid if needed.
“We went out and did evaluations of all the sites that were proposed by members,” said Sullivan. “This included the scope of work that would have to be done at these sites, an estimate of the sun resource, the true cost effectiveness of the site, and consideration of capacity and transmission benefits.”
The Phase II project is broken down into two tiers. Tier I sites passed local ordinances last year to be a part of the program and are ready to break ground and be in operation in 2016.
Tier I sites, with estimated commercial operation dates before the end of 2016, are:
- Bowling Green, OH – 20 MW
- Front Royal, VA – 2.5 MW
- Coldwater, MI – 1.2 MW
- Smyrna, DE – 1.1 MW
- Marshallville, OH – 0.7 MW
- Prospect, OH – 0.25 MW
“Bowling Green is excited to be a part of this development,” said Brian O’Connell, Bowling Green utilities director and member of the AMP Board of Trustees. “The project allows us to build cost-effective sites as a collective group and the benefits are spread to all participants.”
Having multiple solar installations in different locations is beneficial as sites can be producing different energy based on local cloud cover – picking up the slack for one another.
Tier II sites include 20 locations in Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware. The desktop analysis of these sites has been completed and NextEra is proceeding with due diligence. Additional sites will be constructed based on subscription amounts.
“For Tier II sites – we did the same amount of investigation and analysis as Tier I,” explained Sullivan. “A lot of initial work has been done to look at feasibility, but there is still opportunity for members to add a site as part of Tier II.”
As a general estimate, about five to six acres are needed for each megawatt of solar. Panels usually face south to get the most energy out of them and solar is typically generating during the highest priced hours of the day.
“Solar is what communities and customers are looking for right now,” said O’Connell. “It is a good peaking resource with no fuel cost, and will benefit participants now and in the future.”