Huge Solar with Battery Storage Project Complete and Operational

Brian McCowan, Zondits staff, 2/29/2024
Image: The Edwards & Sanborn solar and storage project in Kern County, California. (Mortenson)

The new California facility makes grid-scale solar energy available even when the sun doesn’t shine.

Two million solar PV panels and over 120,000 batteries have come online on a combination of public and private land in the Mohave desert. The project has a rated generating capacity of 875 megawatts of solar power combined with 3,287 megawatt-hours of energy storage.

The Edwards & Sanborn Solar and Storage Project was made possible through a public-private partnership between the U.S. Air Force and private landowners. The Airforce states that the project is their largest public-private land partnership to date, covering 4,600 acres.

The public land is part of the sprawling Edwards Airforce Base, best known as a runway for the U.S. Space Shuttle. The base was also the home of the test flights that led to Chuck Yeager’s breaking the sound barrier in the Bell X-1. Today it continues as a test bed for flight and aerospace endeavors, and hosts NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center.

Project development was led by Terra-Gen, an independent developer and operator of renewable energy projects. To date, the firm has developed over 5 GW of wind, solar, and energy storage. Terra-Gen engaged Mortenson to handle the engineering and construction of both the solar array and the storage facility. Mortenson constructs a diverse range of projects, including hotels, university buildings, and wind power, in addition to solar and storage projects.

In addition to providing grid power to large utilities such as Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric, Terra-Gen has negotiated solar and storage contracts with both integrators and end users, including the city of San Jose, Starbucks, and the Clean Power Alliance, a renewable energy supplier serving 3 million customers in Southern California.

The integration of solar and storage on such a massive scale is seen as a demonstration that solar and wind power are not only intermittently available power supplies. The project, and others currently in planning and construction processes, provide clean power throughout the night from stored solar generation.

Announcing the completion of the project, U.S. Air Force Civil Engineer Commander General William Kale said, “Only in America can we take barren land, embrace the power of the sun, and create an engineering marvel. So, take the time to reflect, see the great work that was done, and understand the significance of this project and what it can lead to. Hopefully, this is just the spark.”

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