California green-lights plans for green energy boom in Sacramento

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Image credit: Jeff Turner / Flickr

California’s state planning authorities have waved through a plan by a Sacramento utility to roll out gigawatts’ worth of green energy over the next two decades, including utility-scale storage.

Earlier this week, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) said the California Energy Commission has given the all-clear to its plans to install nearly 4GW of renewables and demand-side resources by 2040.

The Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) proposed by the firm – a not-for-profit entity servicing an area home to 1.5 million – would see major volumes of utility-scale solar (1.5GW), rooftop solar (600MW), wind power (670MW) and utility-scale storage (560MW) installed within two decades.

The Sacramento utility is working towards a goal to supply net-zero-emission electricity to its customers by 2040. Delivering the IRP would cost US$6.5 to US$7.3 billion but slash SMUD’s 2020-2040 greenhouse gas emissions by 57%, the firm estimates.

The IRP documents approved this week were adopted by SMUD’s Board of Directors in October 2018, and spell out how the utility will go about meeting its solar installation targets. The firm plans to build 300MW of the 1.5GW of utility-scale solar within three years.

SMUD is targeting sites around Sacramento for the PV build-out – it estimates 80,000 acres may be available county-wide for such a purpose – but also considering other locations in California, despite misgivings around missed green and economic benefits for Sacramento.

The IRP also sheds light on the approach the utility intends to follow with energy storage. The firm currently sees the segment as “not generally cost effective” but expects costs to come down. The plan, SMUD says, is to first focus on R&D and then ramp up deployment by 2030, when storage might take off.

In addition, SMUD believes “niche” storage applications – including co-location with solar – could see the technology embraced by “early-adopter” customers. By 2040, the utility wants to drive over 200MW in battery systems installed by its customers.

The prospects of a Sacramento-centred renewable boom by 2040 come as further south in California, Los Angeles authorities sponsor a major solar-plus-storage complex boasting ultra-low tariffs. As reported by PV Tech today, 8minute’s Eland complex is to be bought by Capital Dynamics.

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