NextEra’s trifecta of renewable vitality rises within the wheat fields of Oregon


In jap Oregon, someplace between the Blue Mountains and the Columbia River, 120 large wind generators tower over wheat fields, churning out energy. On the identical time, on the bottom, photo voltaic panels seize the vitality of the solar, and large batteries present storage for any energy in extra of the second’s demand. As the primary energy facility within the continent to mix — at utility scale — the trifecta of wind energy, solar energy and battery storage, the challenge is on the forefront of a transition pattern. It demonstrates how renewables, mixed with favorable tax incentives and regional coverage, level the best way to income. 

The Swiss military knife of renewable energy

The Wheatridge Renewable Energy Facility in Lexington, Oregon, commissioned on the finish of September, was developed by NextEra Vitality (NYSE: NEE), a renewable vitality large constructed out of a century-old Florida utility. This can be a giant plant — with 300 megawatts (MW) of wind capability, plus 50 MW photo voltaic and 30 MW battery capability — sufficient to fulfill the vitality wants of some 100,000 households.

That is the primary large-scale plant within the nation using all issues renewable. It’s additionally the way forward for electrical energy technology. A current Lawrence Berkeley Nationwide Lab report that tracks energy plant improvement counted 9 giant wind-solar-battery vegetation within the pipeline. At the very least two of these — in Oklahoma and Arizona — are NextEra initiatives.

The NextEra Vitality juggernaut

NextEra, which we’ve written about at size, is a juggernaut within the vitality transition. The corporate, born out of utility firm Florida Energy and Mild (FPL), has invested some $55 billion in renewable energy. Previously 25 years, NextEra has jettisoned almost the entire legacy coal-fired capability that when dominated FPL’s portfolio and aggressively expanded into renewables by way of acquisitions and new initiatives throughout North America. It boasts the most important wind and photo voltaic producing capability on the earth.

This method permits a constant stream of energy, makes use of the connection to the grid across the clock and minimizes idle occasions.

“NextEra has been round doing utility-scale wind for a very long time and extra not too long ago have gotten into utility-scale photo voltaic and storage, so they’re most likely as nicely positioned as any developer on the market to deliver all three of these issues collectively,” says Mark Bolinger, a analysis scientist at Lawrence Berkeley Nationwide Lab. 

The Wheatridge facility is a brand new mannequin in the best way that it addresses the issue of intermittency — the pure ups and downs of wind and solar — in addition to the capability limits of the transmission grid, says Bolinger.

“[A]dding wind to photo voltaic after which having the battery there as nicely can lead to an general plant output that appears a lot steadier than any a type of assets on their very own would look,” he says.

When the solar goes down, the wind picks up

When the solar goes down on the finish of the day, and photo voltaic technology tapers, the wind kicks up, sending generators into motion and producing extra energy. The identical back-and-forth occurs over the course of the yr as nicely, so combining photo voltaic with wind can present a extra fixed stream of vitality. 

The battery on-site provides one other benefit. When each wind and solar are in full swing, they could generate greater than the transmission traces can deal with, prompting system operators to curtail their entry briefly. This extra energy, moderately than being wasted, will be saved and injected into the grid later when the curtailment occasion has handed, says Bolinger. 

This method permits a constant stream of energy, makes use of the connection to the grid across the clock and minimizes idle occasions. It will get renewables even nearer to steady energy and eliminates the necessity to fall again on fossil fuels to fill gaps.

Artistic structuring

This challenge additionally highlights NextEra’s artistic strategy to structuring offers within the renewable sector. Based on Bolinger, energy vegetation are both wholly owned by a utility or don’t personal it and as a substitute purchase energy by way of energy buy agreements.

Wheatridge is co-owned with the native utility Portland Common Electrical, a 130-year-old native energy firm that, below a 2021 Oregon regulation, should cut back its greenhouse fuel emissions by 80 % by 2030 and 100% by 2040. PGE owns one-third of the wind output; the remaining — two-thirds of the wind and the entire battery and photo voltaic capability — is owned by NextEra, which sells its output by way of PPAs.

That is the primary large-scale plant within the nation using all issues renewable. It’s additionally the way forward for electrical energy technology.

NextEra has the deep pockets to develop the challenge after which money in on a federal funding tax credit score for the solar-and-battery mixture. (Previous to the brand new Inflation Discount Act, which offers tax credit for stand-alone batteries, solely battery storage mixed with photo voltaic obtained funding tax credit.) As Bolinger factors out, securing land leases is among the largest challenges to creating a wind farm. However as soon as that hurdle has been cleared, there’s nothing to stop including photo voltaic panels and huge batteries and getting that rather more out of the funding.

In the meantime, PGE takes an enormous step towards transitioning its portfolio to renewables — Wheatridge replaces PGE’s final coal-fired plant, which it shut down in 2020 — the utility can generate income by way of the portion of wind energy it owns, and have entry to a longer-term funding manufacturing tax credit score. 

The chance within the renewable energy market retains on rising, and there’s no finish in sight — as state and federal coverage, demand and income proceed to level in the identical common route. The trick, as NextEra demonstrates, is discovering the candy spot the place all three align simply so.


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