US DOI approves plans for Californian 700MW solar-plus-storage project

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The Crimson Solar project is expected to be able to power 87,500 homes on completion. Image: DOI/Tom Brewster.

The US Department of the Interior (DOI) has announced that the development of a 700MW capacity solar-plus-storage project on Californian federal land has been approved.

The DOI said on Monday (3 May) that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has given final approval to the Crimson Solar Project, a 350MW solar PV array with a 350MW/1,400MWh energy storage system that will generate power through the Southern California Edison Colorado River Substation.

The project will be owned by renewables company Sonoran West Solar Holdings, a subsidiary of utility-scale developer Recurrent Energy and Canadian Solar. It will be built on 2,500 acres of Federal land in Riverside County, according to an impact statement, and is expected to require an investment of US$500 million. The DOI said in a statement that the Crimson project will have the capacity to power 87,500 homes on completion.

The battery energy storage system (BESS) is expected to have four hours storage and discharge duration.

California has become home to some of the world’s biggest energy storage projects in recent years. At 350MW capacity, the Crimson Solar project’s BESS is larger than the current size of the recently built Moss Landing facility in Monterey County, California. The 300MW/1,200MWh is said to be the largest operational BESS in the world, and is also set to have an additional 100MW / 400MWh capacity added by August.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said that using federal lands for collocated utility-scale projects such as the Crimson Solar project will “help to make America a global leader in the clean energy economy.” The project is expected to create 650 construction jobs, as well as 50 operations and maintenance (O&M) roles over its 30-year life, the majority of which will be part-time or temporary.

Public lands have become a new battleground for the US energy transition since President Biden took office and set a target of decarbonising the country’s energy mix by 2035. Haaland issued two secretarial orders last month to “prioritise action on climate change”, and established a Climate Task Force in order to ramp up renewable energy installations on public lands, while at the same time removing Trump-era policies that promoted coal, oil and gas power production on those areas.

Laura Daniel-Davis, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Land, said this week that federal lands offer “a tremendous opportunity to realize the potential of renewable energy.”

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