Leaning Juniper

Leaning Juniper Wind.

PacifiCorp on July 7 released a request for proposals seeking 4.3 GW of renewable energy and battery storage, the largest RFP in the utility's history and one of the largest calls for renewables in the industry.

The utility's 2020 RFP seeks 1,823 MW of solar, 595 MW of battery storage and 1,920 MW of wind that can be operational by the end of 2024.

The company said "it will accept bids featuring different resource types and bid structures, including forms of power-purchase, battery storage, and build-transfer agreements."

PacifiCorp will not submit any self-build resources and therefore won't compete with independent power developers.

The RFP says projects must be able to achieve commercial operations by Dec. 31, 2024, but long-lead-time projects, such as pumped storage, can submit offers with commercial operation dates beyond that date. The RFP says a "reasonable on-line date" for a pumped-storage project is five years from signing a contract, or Dec. 31, 2026.

PacifiCorp is looking for proposals from resources capable of interconnecting with or delivering to its transmission system in either its east or west balancing authority areas (PACE and PACW, respectively).

The utility's transmission network reaches into 10 Western states, potentially making projects within the entire Western Interconnection eligible to bid into the RFP.

Spencer Gray, executive director of the Northwest and Intermountain Power Producers Coalition, said the RFP heralds a batch of resource solicitations from Northwest utilities aimed at replacing coal-fired generation and reshaping the grid.

PacifiCorp plans to close 16 of its coal units by 2030 and another four by 2038. The retirements would trim 2,800 MW from the company's 6,000 MW coal portfolio by 2030, and nearly 4,500 MW by 2038.

"This is the biggest, and the first" RFP aimed at replacing coal-fired generation, Gray said. "But there will be multiple rounds of these as utilities figure out their capacity needs and how renewables will replace coal."

The release of PacifiCorp's 2020 RFP kicks off what could be the next "great phase" of regional renewables development, Gray said.

"I think in 10 or 20 years we'll look back at the first wave of renewables development in the Northwest as 'Wind in the Gorge,'" he said, "I think in this next phase there will be a lot of development elsewhere around the region. I see a lot more solar on the rain shadow side of the mountains, and utilities will be tapping into wind in Montana and Wyoming."

PacifiCorp's 2019 integrated resource plan placed new solar development in Utah as the heavy favorite to find a place in its portfolio.

Modeling done for PacifiCorp's 2019 IRP showed Utah's potential for cost-effective development of 3,000 MW of solar, paired with 635 MW of battery storage, between 2020 and 2037.

Solar development in Oregon also scored well during the early years of the 20-year resource planning horizon. Oregon has potential for 1,075 MW of new solar energy that would be paired with 244 MW of battery storage built between 2020 and 2033, the 2019 IRP said.

Solar development in Wyoming and Washington comes into play later in the utility's planning horizon. Between 2024 and 2038 the IRP showed Wyoming developing 1,415 MW of new solar, paired with 354 MW of battery storage, and Washington pairing 814 MW of solar with 204 MW of battery storage.

An RFP for renewables released in 2017 brought 1,150 MW of wind from Wyoming into PacifiCorp's portfolio.

The 2019 IRP's preferred portfolio also includes development of the Energy Gateway South project, a 400-mile transmission line that would run from southeast Wyoming into Utah, and is expected to be operational by year-end 2023.

The 2019 IRP also called for transmission upgrades and investments in Utah, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Wyoming that "will facilitate continued and long-term growth in new renewable resources," according to the 2019 IRP.

PacifiCorp isn't alone in shopping for new resources. Most Northwest investor-owned utilities have ventured in search of new renewable resources, as well as resources that can contribute to meeting capacity shortfalls in both winter and summer.

Washington's largest utility, Puget Sound Energy, is preparing to test the market for capacity and demand response programs with a pair of requests for proposals. The utility's draft RFP shows PSE acquiring 200 MW of capacity in 2023 and in 2024, with another 353 MW in service at the end of 2025 (CU No. 1959 [9]).

Spokane-based Avista on June 26 released an RFP for 120 aMW of renewable energy.

NorthWestern Energy, Montana's largest utility, also released an RFP on June 26 looking for energy and capacity proposals of 25-300 MW capable of delivering to a point of interconnection on NorthWestern's system, beginning in summer or fall 2020.

Portland General Electric's updated 2019 IRP shows a capacity need of about 250 MW beginning in 2021, increasing to about 270 MW in 2023 and reaching 697 MW as contracts begin expiring at the end of the action-plan window in 2025.

Later this year, PGE is likely to release an RFP seeking 150 aMW of renewable energy and another for "non-emitting dispatchable capacity resources" that would also take into consideration the long lead times needed to develop a pumped hydro storage project (CU No. 1937 [12]).

Editor - Clearing Up

Steve began covering energy policy and resource development in the Pacific Northwest in 1999. He’s been editor of Clearing Up since 2003, and has been a fellow at the Institute for Journalism and Natural Resource and University of Texas.