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A solar array in Las Vegas Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Massive Solar-Storage Project Is Planned for the Nevada Desert

Combined, three solar projects will produce enough power to supply a city the size of Newark, New Jersey.

Brian Eckhouse and Christopher Martin (Bloomberg) -- NV Energy Inc., the Nevada utility owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., agreed to buy power from three massive solar farms equipped with big batteries in the Nevada desert.

The projects mark one of the the biggest expansions of solar and storage ever proposed in the U.S. Combined, they’ll produce enough power to supply a city the size of Newark, New Jersey, according to BloombergNEF.

Clean-power companies are racing to develop solar projects with batteries capable of providing grids with power after sundown. A key reason is more and more states -- including Nevada -- have committed to ban fossil fuels from power generation over the next several decades, but they’ll need more than intermittent solar and wind power to do it. Solar complemented by energy storage can help smooth and extend output from panels to make them operate more like coal or gas plants.

“Solar used to be expensive, and batteries used to be expensive -- and now it’s cheap,” said Jenny Chase, BNEF’s lead solar analyst. “We’re going to see new records set very regularly.”

It helps that battery prices have fallen sharply. Plus, in some instances it’s cheaper to build a solar project with batteries than a new gas-fired power plant, including in parts of the U.S. Southwest.

The three projects in Nevada -- by 8minute Solar Energy, Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners and EDF Renewables -- will produce about 1,200 megawatts of solar, backed by battery systems capable of storing 2,300 megawatt hours.

  • 8minute is planning a sprawling 300-megawatt solar array with a 540 megawatt-hour lithium-ion storage system north of Las Vegas, according to a company statement. It’s expected to begin construction in 2022 on the Moapa River Indian Reservation and be operational the following year if approved by regulators.
  • Quinbrook is building a 690-megawatt solar array and a battery system capable of storing more than 1,400 megawatt hours, according to a separate statement. The Gemini project will cost more than $1 billion to construct on federal land 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of Las Vegas by the end of 2023.
  • EDF Renewables, a unit of Electricite de France SA, plans to build the 200-megawatt Arrow Canyon solar farm with 375 megawatt-hours of storage. It too will on the Moapa River Indian Reservation, about 20 miles north of Las Vegas.

“This is just the beginning of a paradigm shift in our industry,” Tom Buttgenbach, 8minute’s chief executive officer, said in an interview Tuesday.

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