Quinbrook seals landmark solar-plus-storage deal in the US

Fund manager’s co-founder says the Gemini project – one of three procured by Nevada’s largest utility, NV Energy – will be among the biggest in the world.

Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners will be developing a 690MW solar-generation project coupled with a 380MW battery-storage system, after winning a solicitation launched by NV Energy and signing a 25-year power-purchase agreement with the utility.

The Australian fund manager is backing the Gemini Solar and Battery Storage Project, which Quinbrook estimates will cost more than $1 billion, for an undisclosed amount through its $1.6 billion Low Carbon Power Fund. Arevia Power will develop the project on land owned by the US federal government 25 miles north-east of Las Vegas.

It is one of three projects NV Energy is procuring as part of a state mandate for power providers to generate 50 percent of capacity from renewables by 2030. The other two are a 200MW solar and 75MW five-hour battery facility, which will be developed by EDF Renewables; and a 300MW solar and 135MW four-hour storage system, which will be developed by 8minute Solar Energy.

David Scaysbrook, Quinbrook’s co-founder and managing partner, told Infrastructure Investor that an important factor for NV Energy when it was awarding contracts was for the proposed projects to be able to perform “peak-shifting duty” during evening hours, when energy demand in Las Vegas is at its highest.

“Everything turns on in the late afternoon or early evening, between 5pm and 9pm,” he said. “The solar-battery hybrid is going to be a very significant feature of new power-capacity additions in years to come, particularly in areas that have a high amount of solar radiation.”

He added that Gemini, which he expects to be operational by the end of 2023, would be one of the largest solar-plus-storage projects ever built.

Scaysbrook said the long-term PPA signed with NV Energy is a “game-changer.”

“Having a utility, particularly the dominant power supplier in the Nevada market, commit long-term for 25 years makes the investment that much easier,” he said. “This will be an incredibly attractive financing opportunity for both debt and equity.”

Quinbrook was founded as a clean-energy investment manager by Scaysbrook and Rory Quinlan, who both left Switzerland-based Capital Dynamics in 2015 and who previously managed renewables company Novera Energy. Scaysbrook said the Low Carbon Power Fund, which closed in March, now had commitments amounting to more than half its target.

The fund is targeting investments in utility-scale onshore wind and solar energy, battery storage, gas peaking and reserve capacity, as well as smart grids and embedded networks. Its investments thus far include US wind farm developer and operator Scout Clean Energy, Illinois-based wind and solar developer Glidepath Power Solutions, and a reserve power-peaking portfolio of approximately 200MW in the UK.