Despite a devastating hit to the jobs market through the COVID-19 pandemic, the renewable energy market has maintained its momentum. This post will discuss just a few of the top projects in the US that are creating jobs in the power generation industry.
The US is set to add 18 gigawatts of new PV capacity this year. This continued the utility-scale energy market drives surge. Despite the pain in the distributed solar market, where project cycles are shorter and harder to maintain physical distance, installers such as Sunrun and Sunnova are at their peak. Wind is similarly benefiting. There are more wind power projects under construction than ever before. New federal guidance gives developers an extra year to finish projects and remain qualified for the Production Tax Credit. On the storage front, the US is slated to build a record 1.2GW of energy storage this year, with an expected surge to nearly 7GW of annual installations in 2025.
Here are a few of the energy projects driving the jobs market.
1. Spotsylvania (sPower), Virginia
Despite fears that the clean energy industry’s capital would dry up during the pandemic, sPower secured a huge tax-equity package for its 620-megawatt (DC) Spotsylvania project in Virginia in late April, during the peak of the first wave in the US. The Spotsylvania Solar Energy Center has been under construction since late 2019 and counts Microsoft, Apple, Etsy, and the University of Richmond among its off-takers. It will be the largest solar project anywhere east of the Rockies, according to sPower. There are currently 550 workers on-site, with plans to build to 700 before the project reaches completion in the third quarter of this year.
2. North Central Wind (American Electric Power), Oklahoma
For American Electric Power, the North Central wind project was considered a Plan B. The Ohio-based utility group originally planned to build a 2-gigawatt wind farm in Oklahoma’s panhandle, known as Wind Catcher. The project was notable because of its size and its backer. Wind Catcher would have been the largest wind farm ever built in North America. However, AEP canceled Wind Catcher a year later, blaming regulatory delays in Texas that put the project at risk of failing to capture the full Production Tax Credit (PTC).
Then, last year AEP launched their Plan B with North Central Wind, a slimmed-down but still massive investment in Oklahoma that doesn’t depend entirely on the full PTC. Unlike Wind Catcher, the $2 billion North Central plan is being built as three separate wind farms. One of which will be the largest single-phase wind farm ever built in the US. After receiving the necessary regulatory approval in the four states where the power will be sold (Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas), the project was in the clear. While the coronavirus pandemic has slowed many regulatory and permitting decisions, AEP confirmed that new approvals in Arkansas and Louisiana mean North Central will go ahead even if it does not get a green light in Texas.
3. Strata Solar’s Ventura Battery (Southern California Edison), California
The United States needs energy storage to reach the carbon-free electricity goals necessary to curb the worst effects of climate change. A year ago, utility Southern California Edison surprised many in the energy industry by choosing a portfolio of battery storage projects to meet local capacity needs around the coastal city of Oxnard. Balancing that would once have been provided by gas power would not be replaced with a community-led commitment to clean energy.
The biggest project in the storage portfolio is a 100-megawatt/400-megawatt-hour battery to be built and operated by Strata Solar, now Strata Clean Energy. Recently, Strata confirmed that it has tapped none other than Tesla to supply and install its Megapack product. The project is on track to be operational in early 2021, Strata’s senior vice president of energy storage told GTM.
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