Denmark’s Ørsted is the leading developer of U.S. offshore wind projects and, thanks to its acquisition of Lincoln Clean Energy last year, a major player in onshore wind. Next on the agenda: utility-scale solar and storage.
Ørsted on Wednesday announced plans to build a 460-megawatt solar-plus-storage project in West Texas, near existing oil and gas infrastructure in the Permian Basin. Ørsted said the Permian Energy Center, due for completion in mid-2021, will make it the first developer to own the “full spectrum” of renewable technologies at utility scale in the U.S. — onshore and offshore wind, solar PV and storage.
The storage facility will be relatively modest in size by the standards of the latest projects, at 40 megawatts with one hour of capacity, running alongside a 420 MW AC solar array.
The solar plant itself will crack the top 10 for size in the U.S. market, according to Wood Mackenzie data. The combined project will be built across a 3,600-acre site in Andrews County.
In terms of the batteries, "It's worth noting that this is a one-hour system, while many solar-plus-storage systems are longer in duration," said Dan Finn-Foley, WoodMac's head of energy storage. "This shows again how value for storage varies dramatically by region."
Large solar-plus-storage projects are proliferating across a number of U.S. power markets, spurred in part by the federal Investment Tax Credit, which is open to battery systems charged by solar power, as well as by rapid cost declines for solar plants and lithium-ion batteries. Such combined facilities are increasingly cost-competitive with gas peaker plants in some regions.
This summer, utility NV Energy, part of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway group, announced deals with three solar projects totaling 1.2 gigawatts paired with 590 megawatts of battery storage, being developed by 8minute Solar Energy, EDF Renewables and Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners.
Meanwhile, NextEra Energy’s Florida Power & Light utility is building a 409-megawatt storage project to be powered by utility-scale solar. NextEra, North America’s largest renewables developer, recently said that more than half of its new solar projects will be paired with storage — with offtaker customers “increasingly interested in a near-firm, low-cost renewable product.”
JinkoSolar and JA Solar, both based in China, will supply PV modules to Ørsted’s Permian project. Jinko recently opened a factory in Florida, amid a modest wave of PV supply chain localization in the U.S. in response to the Trump administration’s solar import tariffs.
State-backed Ørsted — known until two years ago as Danish Oil and Natural Gas — is at the vanguard of old energy companies transitioning rapidly toward renewables. Ørsted is the world’s leading developer and operator of offshore wind farms, and its acquisition last year of Deepwater Wind for more than $500 million has made it the most important player in the burgeoning U.S. market, a position it has continued to build on.
Ørsted blasted into the U.S. onshore renewables market last year through its acquisition of Lincoln Clean Energy, a Chicago-based wind developer with a growing solar business and a large pipeline of projects.
**Editor's note: The story originally said the Permian project would use bifacial solar modules, based on the press statement. A company spokesperson later confirmed the project will not use bifacial technology.