Renewable Energy World Announces the 2015 Project of the Year

At last night’s PennWell Awards Ceremony, Invenergy’s Grand Ridge Energy Storage Project was named the Renewable Energy Project of the Year.

As more and more intermittent renewables come online in the developed world, the business case for energy storage becomes more and more defined. In 2012 transmission operator PJM recognized the value of energy storage in the secondary market for frequency regulation and today the region has more than half of the energy storage installed capacity in the U.S.

The Grand Ridge Energy Storage Center is a 31.5 MW lithium-ion battery system co-located at Invenergy’s Grand Ridge wind and solar farms. The project is the second largest lithium-ion battery storage system in the world. The project acts as both a generator and a load to provide grid operator PJM with the megawatts or “negawatts” it needs to balance supply and demand.

The Grand Ridge Energy Center represents a new class of grid assets to address the challenges of the 21st century grid, which is transforming at a rapid pace. Distributed generation, higher levels of renewables and fewer industrial loads mean that load is “peakier” than in the past. To address these challenges, grid operators need fast responding resource that can inject or withdraw power from the grid at a moment’s notice. The Grand Ridge Energy Storage Center provides the PJM grid operator the ability to inject or withdraw power from the grid in less than one second, thus offsetting the need for PJM to procure up to 3 MWs of traditional regulating resources. This results in a more efficient and reliable grid.

The project is part of the Invenergy’s renewable energy showcase at Grand Ridge. At the site Invenergy has 200 MWs of wind, 20 MWs of solar and 33 MWs of storage. Invenergy regularly hosts tours of the facility for schools, government officials, policy makers and industry stakeholders. Invenergy employs 18 employees at the Grand Ridge Facility, of which 2 are dedicated to the energy storage facility. The project adds $35,000 annually to the local tax base. Henkels & McCoy assisted with the project as well.

Jim Shield, Invenergy’s Chief Development Officer, and and Kris Zadlo, Senior Vice President, accepted the award.

The First Solar Topaz Solar Farm was the runner-up. Utility-scale renewable energy projects are the most effective and lowest-cost way to reduce carbon emissions from the power supply. Upon completion in Oct. 2014, the 550-MW Topaz Solar Farms built by First Solar was the largest PV solar energy project in the world, and represented a major turning point in commercial energy generation. From inception, a project of this scale had never been attempted.

The project covers 10 square miles, features over 8.4 million PV modules and was one of the first utility-scale PV project to be financed without a U.S. DOE loan guarantee. Over the course of 5 years to develop and 3 years to construct, Topaz worked through complex issues that led to innovations that changed the way many utility-scale solar projects are developed/constructed today. Key to the development of Topaz was balancing biodiversity requirements with environmentally safe construction practices.

Topaz incorporates advanced capabilities to suppor grid stability and reliability. First Solar, the plant controller, is able to strike a balance of regulating real and reactive power output, resulting in electricity generation that behaves as a single-large generator. This allows coordination among the plant, the independent system operator and the energy off-taker to manage energy load onto the grid.

During construction First Solar implemented new ways to refine its installation process that resulted in reduced labor hours and construction being completed ahead of schedule. The process is now the standard installation method used at most First Solar fixed-tilt PV plants.

Topaz was accomplished through a collaborative effort among contractors with one common denominator: dedication. Wallace Group and Althouse and Meade provided project support since 2009. Electrical subcontractors Conti Corporation and CSI Electrical, CLP Resources hired local construction professionals. Power industry expertise included Beta Engineering, Michels Corporation, Altstrom Grid, ABB, SMA, Olsen, Old Castle Precast and Burns and McDonnell, California Compaction, United Rentals, Papich Construction, Securitas, American Star Tours, Ride On Vanpools, URS Corporation, Highway Safety Corporation, Applied Earth Works, Syntech, Ambient Noise Monitoring, Ninyo & Moore, Cleath & Harris Geologists, William Scotsman, Earth Systems, United Site Services and others built this world class project. congratulates all who were involved in both of these excellent projects.

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Jennifer Runyon has been studying and reporting about the world's transition to clean energy since 2007. As editor of the world's largest renewable energy publication, Renewable Energy World, she observed, interviewed experts about, and reported on major clean energy milestones including Germany's explosive growth of solar PV, the formation and development of the U.S. onshore wind industry, the U.K. offshore wind boom, China's solar manufacturing dominance, the rise of energy storage, the changing landscape for utilities and grid operators and much, much, more. Today, in addition to managing content on POWERGRID International, she also serves as the conference advisory committee chair for DISTRIBUTECH, a globally recognized conference for the transmission and distribution industry. You can reach her at

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