The Edwards-Sanborn energy project is the largest solar-storage project in the world, and “will produce almost a gigawatt DC from solar photovoltaic panels and store energy with 2,400 MWh of lithium-ion batteries.” IBEW Local 428 is heading the historic project that is nearing completion.
The majority of renewable energy projects were “generation only” a decade ago, but this is changing due to more attainable energy storage capabilities. What does this mean for IBEW members? The new storage capabilities require higher skill levels in order to do the job right, putting union contractors at a greater advantage for both hiring and higher wages. "Those batteries are a different beast," Local 428 Business Manager Brian Holt said. "They are big, heavy, and require extensive knowledge and safety procedures."
The Edwards-Sanborn energy storage project also entails journeymen and apprentices installing above and below ground transmission lines, a conversion station, substation, operations and maintenance facilities, tie-in lines and connecting the solar arrays. Once finished, Edwards-Sanborn will power over a quarter million homes.
Over the past few years the price of lithium batteries has decreased, which means both an increase in solar-storage projects and more work for highly skilled electricians are on the horizon. Better energy storage also promises more energy availability at peak times for customers. The renewable-plus-storage market is just heating up, giving the IBEW more opportunities – and all of us a greener future.