Spanish renewables developer Acciona has acquired 3 gigawatts of solar and 1 gigawatt of storage projects currently under development in the U.S. by Nebraska-based Tenaska.
The deal announced Monday will see Acciona aiming to complete eight solar projects totaling around 1,200 megawatts before the end of 2023, the first year the federal Investment Tax Credit hits zero for utility-scale projects. Rafael Esteban, Acciona's energy division director for North America, said in an email to Greentech Media that it's "too early to say" how a possible extension of tax credits might impact that timeline.
The pipeline includes 20 projects in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri. Tenaska Solar Ventures will provide Acciona with “development services” during the build-out of the pipeline.
Acciona Energia is part of the Acciona Group, a global construction and infrastructure firm. It has been rapidly expanding its solar portfolio with projects in Chile, Australia, Mexico and Portugal and other countries. The company’s total renewables pipeline is now almost an even split between wind and solar.
Acciona has 10 gigawatts of renewables, largely wind, under ownership and has built 1 gigawatt of solar for itself and third parties.
Wind developers on both sides of the Atlantic have increasingly embraced solar, a move endorsed by the trade group the American Wind Energy Association. Global offshore wind pacesetter Ørsted, for instance, recently bought wind and solar developer Lincoln Clean Energy and now runs a solar and battery storage development office in Texas — a wind-heavy market where solar is gaining.
“This operation represents an opportunity for Acciona to increase our commitment to renewable energy and sustainability in the United States through photovoltaic and energy storage technology, after the investments we have already made in wind power,” said Esteban.
"Zero-to-sixty" on storage
The majority of Acciona's 1-gigawatt battery storage pipeline will be located in PJM territory, with 40 percent in the Southwest Power Pool.
Acciona only began dabbling in energy storage in 2018. This purchase looks to be the company's first foray into U.S. storage — and it’s a big one.
“This is definitely a zero-to-sixty investment in the storage space,” said Dan Finn-Foley, head of energy storage at Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables. “Just another week in 2019: a single company, in a single transaction, acquiring an energy storage pipeline nearly equal to the megawatts installed in the country to date.”
The U.S. currently has about 1 gigawatt of front-of-the meter storage installed.
Acciona plans to provide “cutting-edge technologies and services,” but Esteban said the company's approach with storage will vary in each market depending on how regulations evolve. Though the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last week approved some plans from the Southwest Power Pool and PJM to implement its storage Order 841, which aims to allow storage to participate in wholesale markets, Esteban said "questions remain" due to the "rapidly evolving regulatory landscape."
“It's the perfect cap on a big week of energy storage news in PJM,” said Finn-Foley, adding that the investment “mark[s] a major European entity entering the market the same week FERC approved a storage participation model under Order 841, while also announcing they would start proceedings to examine minimum runtime requirements, which could potentially give shorter-duration energy storage a foot in the door of the region's capacity market.”