Microsoft completes largest corporate solar energy purchase in U.S. to date

microsoft solar purchase

Microsoft Corp. announced the purchase of 315 MW of energy from Pleinmont I and II, two new solar projects in the commonwealth of Virginia. This represents the single largest corporate purchase of solar energy ever in the United States and will enable Microsoft to make significant progress toward its goal of reaching 60 percent by early 2020. The Pleinmont projects are part of a larger 500-MW solar development, owned and operated by sPower, an AES and AIMCo company.

“Today, we’re signing the largest corporate solar agreement in the United States, a 315 megawatt project in Virginia that will move us ahead of schedule in creating a cleaner cloud,” said Brad Smith, president, Microsoft. “This project means more than just gigawatts, because our commitment is broader than transforming our own operations; it’s also about helping others access more renewable energy.”

The project is owned and will be operated by sPower, a leading independent renewable energy power producer based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Once operational, Pleinmont I and II will consist of more than 750,000 solar panels spread across more than 2,000 acres, and produce approximately 715,000 MWh a year.

Related: Context Clues: Know where to find the value when selling commercial solar solutions

“Microsoft’s participation is a game-changer for this project and for other buyers,” said Ryan Creamer, CEO of sPower. “Their early commitment helped ensure that the project continued to move forward and come to fruition at a time of regulatory uncertainty. Microsoft’s large off-take also helped us offer very cost-competitive options for other buyers looking at our Virginia portfolios. This model broadens the ability for buyers of all sizes to participate in a large project like this, yet only take the megawatts they need for their business goals. We’re proud to be working with Microsoft on this innovative approach.”

Project fun facts

At 500 MW, the full project will be the largest solar project in Virginia and is equal to the entire amount of solar power currently produced in the commonwealth. It will also rank as the fifth largest solar project in the country. Microsoft has a sizeable presence in Virginia, both in terms of its physical presence in the form of datacenters and office buildings and its work to bring connectivity to all citizens in the form of broadband technology. This is its second solar power purchase in Virginia. This deal also represents two milestones for the company. With recent deals, Microsoft has met its target to power at least 50 percent of its datacenters with clean energy by 2018.

— Solar Builder magazine

Details on 7.5-MW solar project at Sacramento International Airport

SMA Inverter at SMF

The Sacramento International Airport (SMF) added 7.9 MW of solar energy generation across two sites: A 15-acre plot near the airport’s economy parking lot, and a 20-acre location north of the runway. Borrego Solar, a top commercial solar company that specializes in designing and constructing solar and energy storage projects, constructed the project with financing from NRG, which will own and operate the facility. NRG will sell electricity to SMF under a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA).

The SMF project consists of two SMA Sunny Central 2200-US inverters integrated with a Medium-Voltage Block, and three Sunny Central 800 CP-US inverters.

“We are pleased to partner with Borrego Solar to bring renewable energy to the Sacramento International Airport, which holds special meaning because our U.S. headquarters is located in the Sacramento region,” said Jim Crossen, general manager for SMA America. “With Sunny Central inverters delivering reliable, robust performance, we are confident that the airport –and those who utilize it –will see the benefits of solar energy.”

The system will offset 30 percent of SMF’s electricity use, providing cost savings of up to $850,000 per year over the 25-year PPA, and will also help the airport achieve environmental leadership in the region.

“SMA is a valuable partner, and we were glad to utilize the company’s exceptional technology and local expertise for this PV system,” said Aaron Hall, president of Borrego Solar Systems. “With the Sunny Central’s reliable performance and power production, we are confident the airport will see great savings with it solar investment.”

The project was completed and commissioned in December 2017.

— Solar Builder magazine

This California bill expands access to solar energy generated by already-developed sites

california energy storage

The California Legislature is being commended again for its support of solar energy, passing a bill last week to make it easier for businesses, schools, nonprofits and municipalities to access solar. In turn, this will help generate thousands of new jobs and millions of dollars of investment in the state.

“California has long been our nation’s leader in solar energy, but many of its businesses and schools face practical barriers to adopting solar,” said Sean Gallagher, SEIA’s vice president of state affairs. “This bill provides an innovative, yet commonsense solution that will unlock access to local clean energy for these organizations, while creating thousands of jobs in California. We thank Sen. Wiener for his leadership in advancing California’s solar economy.”

The bill would require the PUC …

to require each large electrical corporation to establish a tariff or tariffs that provide for bill credits for electricity generated by eligible renewable generating facilities and exported to the electrical grid to be credited to electrical accounts of nonresidential customers of the corporations. The bill would require the commission to ensure that the credit reflects the full value of the electricity from the eligible renewable generating facilities and the credit is established using the same methodology that as used to determined credits under the standard contract or tariff for eligible customer-generators.

The legislation expands access to offsite solar projects for non-residential customers, by allowing them to partner with already-developed sites – such as parking lots, warehouses, brownfields and landfills – and use those sites for solar energy that the local community can access. The bill, SB 1399, was authored by California Sen. Scott Wiener, who represents San Francisco and parts of San Mateo County.

“To meet our aggressive renewable energy goals, California needs to dramatically expand solar, including maximizing use of our empty rooftops and other developed spaces that are ripe for solar,” said Senator Wiener. “However, these locations sometimes have no need for solar power and therefore sit unused, while other energy customers want to access renewable energy but have no space to install solar. SB 1399 brings these two groups together – supply and demand – to drive an increase in solar installations in urbanized areas throughout California. SB 1399 will spur the generation of more clean energy and create more good-paying solar installation jobs in communities throughout our state.”

10 predictions for community solar in 2018 via Clean Energy Collective

California has an abundance of previously developed sites — 35,000 acres in total, including 20,000 in disadvantaged communities — that could provide ideal locations for solar energy. This bill establishes a pathway for non-residential customers to take advantage of clean energy and enhance both the built environment and the local economy.

SEIA urges the California Legislature to pass this bill, and allow solar to deliver more clean, reliable, affordable power to businesses, schools, public agencies and nonprofits in the state.

— Solar Builder magazine

How EnSync completed a complex solar PPA for a multi-family residential community

ensync ppa solar hawaii multifamily

The latest deal from distributed energy resources (DER) developer EnSync Energy Systems cracked the code on multi-family residential PV projects, which is one of toughest segments to sell. The 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) is for a 792-kW solar project for a residential community in Hawaii to an undisclosed buyer. The project will serve over 200 individual meters — with the flexibility to add more meters — and is grid-tied, exporting unused energy to the grid under the Customer Grid-Supply (CGS) tariff.

How did they do it?

Using its proprietary modeling technology, EnSync Energy performed significant technical and financial analyses to optimize project sizing and setup for delivering the least expensive and most reliable electricity. For example, EnSync Energy modeled how unit vacancy interacts with residential load volatility and concluded that a grid-tied project design could protect the value generated by the solar project. The resulting design, execution and successful PPA balanced load needs, special permitting requirements and CGS utility arrangements to maximize savings. EnSync Energy’s modular technology approach also enables the residential complex to easily scale capacity in the future.

“The many complexities of creating a PPA for this large residential development project, with so many units and individual load and production profiles, are indicators of the challenges our solutions address and the value we bring to the residential market-place,” said Brad Hansen, CEO and president of EnSync Energy. “Our capability to perform increasingly intricate analysis and modeling, in addition to applying expertise in policy implications, enables us to construct a customized PPA that benefits all stakeholders economically.”

EnSync Energy, with its suite of integrated project development services that merge design modeling with financial analysis and system implementation, is equipped to manage the future of energy complexity. This site is one of more than 22 contracted commercial projects in Hawaii, which will account for more than $33.4 million in electricity sales over the terms of the agreements.
Construction will commence in the coming months.

— Solar Builder magazine

Drive more commercial solar projects with these new documents from SEIA

solect solar commercial install

Here’s a commercial install from Solect Solar.

Commercial solar has a ton of potential, and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) wants to make that potential clearer for customers and investors, today making two documents available to spur investment.

The first document is a contract that combines the benefits of a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) to provide customers with a valuable new financing option.

“The PACE PPA further builds out SEIA’s suite of model contracts so all solar transactions can be efficiently negotiated and financed,” said Mike Mendelsohn, SEIA’s senior director of project finance & capital markets. “Our goal is to broadly open the U.S. commercial real estate sector for solar deployment, and the PACE PPA is a valuable tool to allow that progress to happen.”

You can learn more about these financing plans here.

The second document, co-authored by SolarKal, is an educational report designed to explain the value of on-site solar to commercial property owners. According to the report, Solar Energy and Commercial Real Estate (CRE): Insights for Your Investment Property, solar systems can allow commercial property owners to raise rents, lower operating expenses, negotiate lease extensions, and increase the net present value, or NPV, of their buildings.

Both documents were developed by SEIA’s C&I Working Group, which is focused on creating solutions for the commercial and industrial sectors.

Download the PACE PPA document here.

— Solar Builder magazine