On May 18, Electrify America announced it has entered into a 15-year virtual power purchase agreement (VPPA) with renewable energy developer Terra-Gen to build a 75 MW solar power plant in San Bernardino, California. Known as Solar Glow 1, it will have an estimated annual capacity of 225,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of clean, renewable energy.
That’s enough to more than offset the energy currently delivered on an annualized basis to customers of the Electrify America charging network. Construction of Solar Glow 1 will begin later this year with the facility expected to become operational in the summer of 2023.
In becoming the largest open network in North America to enter into a VPPA, Electrify America will be supporting the key sustainability goal of “additionality,” meaning that this arrangement would result in new, additional renewable energy generation. Electrify America is purchasing and retiring all bundled environmental certificates associated with the new solar project over a 15-year period, shifting away from the business-as-usual approach of buying environmental certificates from a third-party supplier on an unbundled basis, which does less to support additional renewable energy generation.
“Electrify America’s business model and purpose have always been at the forefront of efforts to reduce emissions through enabling electric mobility,” said Giovanni Palazzo, president and CEO of Electrify America. “Our commitment to customers and to a sustainable future go hand-in-hand, which is why we are investing in renewable energy generation to commit to a net zero carbon footprint associated with the energy delivered to our customers.”
Electrify America’s first solar project in the Southern California Mojave Desert may also be expanded at the option of Terra-Gen to include a battery storage system to further increase the delivery of renewable energy to the grid during times when peaker power plants would normally be used to meet customer needs. Not only is the electricity from those power plants more expensive, the thermal generating plants themselves are a significant source of greenhouse gas pollution.
Electrify America is working to install more than 30 MWh of behind the meter energy storage systems at charging stations across the US to help decrease the carbon profile and potential emissions associated with the electricity that powers its charging network.
Electrify America Is 100% Renewable Now
Although Solar Glow 1 won’t be online until a year from now, as of April, 2022, the Electrify America charging network is already backed by 100% renewable energy through the purchase of environmental certificates from existing renewable generation.
But the company is doing more. It has entered into an interim VPPA that will be effective this October to support the existing Solar Energy Generating Systems IX solar thermal plant until the adjacent new solar photovoltaic facility in San Bernardino County is fully operational. Electrify America will receive the bundled environmental certificates and purchase renewable energy from SEGS IX, which was one of the largest solar thermal energy generating facilities when it was completed in 1990. Today it is one of the world’s longest-operating solar thermal facility.
“Electrify America is proud to support SEGS, which was instrumental to fostering renewable energy generation in the 20th Century and parallels to Electrify America’s mission to advance electric vehicle adoption today,” said Jigar Shah, Head of Energy Services at Electrify America. “In aggregate, these 100% renewable energy commitments address Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions for all energy delivered to our customers, and amount to an estimated 2 million metric tons in avoided CO2 emissions over 15 years — comparable to the carbon sequestered by planting nearly 40 million trees.”
Terra-Gen operates more than 1.3 gigawatts of wind, solar, and energy storage facilities and specializes in the development, construction, and operation of utility scale wind, solar, and energy storage projects.
Electrify America rose from the ashes of the Volkswagen Dieselgate scandal of 2015, which once threatened the company’s very existence. But every cloud has a silver lining and the Electrify America charging network is now helping Americans to make the transition to driving electric cars without worrying about where and how they can charge them.
The company is even rethinking what charging stations should look like and designing what it calls “human centered” facilities for the future. The Tesla Supercharger network is still the gold standard for EV fast charging, but Electrify America is racing to catch up and is one of the most highly rated charging networks in the US.
The EV revolution is not just about spiffy new cars that are as much computers as they are automobiles. It is about decarbonizing the world of personal transportation, something that is essential to keeping the world habitable for humans. Operating our cars and trucks on renewable energy and recycling the batteries in them when they reach the end of their useful life are things conventional vehicles can never do.
One way leads to a degraded planet that no longer supports human existence. The other offers hope for a sustainable future. Electrify America is playing an important role in helping us make the right choice.