Danish Firm’s Arizona Solar Farm: A Renewable Energy Game-changer


In the Arizona desert, a Danish company is constructing a gigantic solar farm that contains batteries that charge when the sun shines and feed energy back into the electric grid when it does not.

Combining batteries with renewable energy is a rapidly expanding climate solution.

“Solar farms only produce when the sun shines, and turbines only produce when the wind blows,” explained Ørsted CEO Mads Nipper. “For us to maximize the availability of the green power, 24/7, we have to store some of it too.”

The United States is increasingly installing batteries, principally lithium-ion, to store energy on a big scale. These are increasingly being combined with solar and wind installations, such as in Arizona. Electric grid operators, utility corporations, and renewable energy developers agree that merging technologies is critical to a green energy future.

Batteries enable renewables to replace fossil fuels such as oil, gas, and coal while providing a consistent flow of power when wind and solar are not producing. For example, while people sleep and use less electricity, the energy created by wind blowing through the night can be stored in batteries and used when demand is high during the day.

Arizona state Sen. Juan Mendez, a resident of Tempe, Arizona, receives power from local utility Salt River Project, which collaborates with Ørsted on the Eleven Mile Solar Center. As a state senator, Mendez pushed SRP to transition to renewable energy.

He believes the power company is still overinvesting in gas and coal plants, including a significant expansion planned for a natural gas plant in Coolidge, near the solar complex.

“This solar-plus-storage is a good step, but SRP needs to do more to provide clean energy and clean up our air and help address climate change,” Mendez stated in a press release.

The company stated it is increasing its renewable energy mix and has just vowed to achieve zero emissions by 2050.

The United States has the world’s second-largest electrical storage capacity after China. According to the BloombergNEF and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy factbook, the United States will add an anticipated 7.5 gigawatts in 2023, up 62% from 2022.

According to BloombergNEF, that quantity is enough to power 750,000 houses for a day, bringing the total installed capacity nationwide to roughly enough for 2 million homes for one day.

Ørsted’s Eleven Mile Solar Center spans 2,000 acres in rural Pinal County. It includes 857,000 solar panels and almost 2,000 cubes that resemble enormous shipping containers but hold battery packs. Ørsted has big solar and storage projects in Texas, Alabama, and Europe.

When the Arizona plant opens this summer, the majority of the power generated by the solar farm will be directed to Facebook owner Meta’s data center in Mesa. The excess solar power generated by Meta, in addition to the power stored in the batteries, will be distributed to the local utility’s consumers. The new batteries can power around 65,000 houses during peak demand hours.

“What I find exciting is how quickly this market is evolving,” said Yayoi Sekine, head of energy storage at BloombergNEF. “There is a lot of pressure on the United States and other places to decarbonize, and storage is one of the key technologies to do so. “There is a lot of momentum.”

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