US ROUND-UP: National Grid Renewables breaks ground in Illinois, California mulls solar planning legislation

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Image: National Grid Renewables

A round-up of solar industry news from across the US, including updates from National Grid Renewables, Capital Dynamics, CenterPoint and the state of California.

National Grid Renewables breaks ground on 200MW Prairie Wolf Solar Project

23 February 2021: Developer National Grid Renewables has broken ground on a 200MW solar project in Coles County, Illinois. Swinerton Renewable Energy won the EPC contract for the solar plant, which is due to come online later this year.

The Prairie Wolf Solar Project is tied in to a virtual power purchase agreement (VPPA) with food company Cargill, marking the second PPA between the two companies.

George Hershman, president of Swinerton Renewable Energy, said developing large-scale projects in newer markets such as Illinois will be “vital in helping our industry reach its ambitious goals and expand access to clean energy for more Americans.”

CenterPoint Energy seeks approval for 400MW of solar in Indiana

23 February 2021: Texas-based utility CenterPoint Energy hopes to form a partnership with Capital Dynamics and two other energy companies to add 400MW of solar PV capacity to Indiana’s grid.

CenterPoint is seeking approval from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) to enter into an agreement on the acquisition of a 300MW solar array, and to secure a power purchase agreement for a further 100MW of solar energy developed by Clēnera.

The 300MW project will be built in Posey County by Capital Dynamics, with energy companies Arevon Energy Management and Tenaska co-developing the plant.

CenterPoint is also attempting to secure a 25-year PPA with developer Clēnera on a 100MW project in southwestern Indiana. If approved by the IURC, the projects are expected to become operational by 2023. IURC is expected to make its decision on both proposals either later this year or early 2022. Steve Greenley, Senior Vice President, generation development for CenterPoint Energy, said he is “confident we have chosen the right companies with the right experience for projects of this scale”.

California mulls solar planning legislation

19 February 2021: California senator Scott Wiener has introduced a new Solar Access Act to implement automated solar permitting and remote inspections in communities with more than 10,000 residents.

The new legislature, officially called SB 617) would support the state’s target of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2045. It would enable more remote inspections and approvals for co-located solar and storage systems, cutting down the amount of time it normally takes to have proposals approved. Existing law, the bill said, “prescribes and limits permit fees that a city or county may charge for a residential and commercial solar energy system”. The new Solar Access Act would require every city and county in the state with a population above 10,000 to implement an online, automated permitting platform that verifies code compliance and instantaneously issues permits for residential solar PV systems and co-located storage, and requires such jurisdictions to provide the option of remote inspections by video or photo. Building officials are currently required to physically inspect potential sites, which Senator Wiener said on Monday (22 February) is “expensive and creates delays”.

“By increasing the duties of local officials,” it said, “this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.” The bill is sponsored by local policy groups SPUR and Environmental California.

“Solar & energy storage are key to our transition to 100% clean energy and our fight against climate change,” Wiener tweeted this week. “We need to make it much easier, faster & more cost-effective to go through this transition.

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