Mining giant Peabody enters solar, eyes 4.9GW of solar and storage in next five years

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Coal is playing less of a role in US electricity production each year, with its share dropping 10% over the past six years. Image: Artyom Korshunov

Global mining giant Peabody Energy has entered the solar industry by launching R3 Renewables, a renewable energy company aiming to deploy over 3.3GW of solar PV and 1.6GW of battery storage capacity over the next five years.

Peabody, which filed for bankruptcy for its US operations in 2016 after being unable to service more than US$10 billion in debt, has created R3 Renewables as a joint venture (JV) with Riverstone Credit Partners and Summit Partners Credit Advisors.

The news comes at a period when coal’s share of the US power mix continues to decline, with renewable generation expected to surpass it this year. Since 2016, coal-derived electricity generation in the US has dropped from 30.4% of electricity generation to around 22% today, according to data from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).  

At first, R3 Renewables will look to develop six solar sites on land near or on its previous coal mining operations in Indiana and Illinois, which are located close to grid connections.  

“The portfolio size and strategic site locations, each of which is in close proximity to grid injection points, offer the potential for the development of the largest solar and battery storage projects in both Indiana and Illinois,” said Peabody.  

John Jones has been appointed as CEO of R3 Renewables and brings nearly 30 years of experience in the independent power industry, including senior roles at renewable industry leaders GE EFS, Lincoln Clean Energy (now Ørsted North America Onshore) and Invenergy.

Peabody CEO and president Jim Grech said the Saint-Louis, Missouri headquartered company wanted to be “the coal producer of choice”.   

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