The 350 MWac Red-Tailed Hawk Solar project planned by the U.S. business of Japan’s largest coal-fired power station operator will be the first renewables facility owned by J-Power USA in the States.
The project, in Wharton County, Texas, will be developed by the electric utility – which runs a 6.5 GW, 12-site gas portfolio in the U.S. – with investor Avondale Solar and Solar Plus Development through the AP Solar Holdings joint venture formed by Avondale and Hong Kong-based project developer Plus Renewables.
The Red-Tailed Hawk project is planned neRear the load center of Houston, a high power demand area, and is set to be operational in 2022 after breaking ground this year. Mark Condon, chief executive of J-Power USA, has labelled the location “the fastest growing load pocket in Ercot,” in a reference to Texan electricity transmission system operator the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.
“We are excited to expand our development capabilities into the renewable energy field,” said Condon.
J-Power USA’s parent is a 60-year-old Japanese utility with an 18 GW coal, hydro, pumped storage and wind portfolio.
Trevor Nash, chief executive of the AP Solar joint venture, also welcomed the project, stating: “Based on the market dynamics and data that we are seeing, Red-Tailed Hawk Solar will be well-positioned to provide low-cost renewable power to the Houston zone.”
Developer Plus Renewable Technologies and Avondale last month agreed to sell their interests in the 350 MWac Fighting Jays Solar project in Fort Bend County, Texas, to an affiliate of the Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners investment fund which usually focuses on wind power. Fighting Jays Solar is expected to break ground in the second half and be operational by the summer of 2022.
Big solar is back in the U.S. with 100 MW-plus projects proliferating in virgin markets including Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama. Analyst Wood Mackenzie expects the number of solar projects with a generation capacity of more than 120 MWac commissioned in the U.S. to grow from 11 last year to 32 next year.
Large projects are no longer driven by renewable portfolio standards imposed on utilities but by corporate clean energy buyers and the competitive pricing of solar power and solar-plus-storage projects.
If there is one solar segment likely to be able to weather a pandemic it is utility scale PV. Big solar supply chains tend to be delayed by such disruption, rather than broken – and it is easier to work at a safe distance from colleagues on a 500-acre solar site than a residential rooftop.