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Lockheed Martin, Cypress Creek launch solar-plus-storage fleet in North Carolina

Most known for its aerospace and defense businesses, Lockheed Martin Corp. partnered with Cypress Creek Renewables Development LLC to launch 12 battery-backed solar farms in southeastern North Carolina for Brunswick Electric Membership Corp., the companies announced March 26.

Developed, built and financed by Cypress Creek, each of the systems includes 500 kW of solar and 500 kW/1 MWh of lithium-ion battery storage and connect directly to the local distribution grid. They are intended to help the co-op reduce its peak power requirements.

Cypress, which acquired the portfolio from United Renewable Energy LLC, owns the front-of-the-meter projects and is selling their output to Brunswick Electric under a long-term power purchase agreement at undisclosed pricing. Lockheed Martin supplied the integrated battery systems that allow the projects to store solar energy that might otherwise be curtailed in the middle of the day and to release the stored solar later, during peak demand periods, reducing costs for Brunswick Electric's members.

SNL Image

One of the 12 solar-plus-storage systems Cypress Creek and
Lockheed Martin built in North Carolina.

Source: Lockheed Martin Corp.

"Offering firm peaking capacity is really what makes the most sense from a solar-plus-storage perspective," Brian Knowles, Cypress Creek's director of energy storage, said in an interview. The company financed the projects with debt and tax equity "in the same fashion we finance our solar projects," he added.

Financing energy storage projects, rather than building them on companies' own balance sheets, "is something whose time has come," a Moody's Investors Service official said in a recent interview.

While the projects represent Cypress' first foray into energy storage, batteries are fast becoming a "default" feature for its projects, Knowles said. "The flexibility you get by incorporating storage into solar projects is just going to be required to be a competitive product." Whether or not its projects ultimately include storage, Cypress now is starting with that premise. "It is best to assume we are going to build a dispatchable [photovoltaic] project ... We want to give ourselves that flexibility."

Lockheed Martin, which in 2016 introduced its lithium-ion battery systems for stationary applications requiring up to six hours of storage, has been developing and installing batteries "for more than 60 years," a spokeswoman said in an email, citing utility-scale and distributed storage as well as projects for the military. The company also is developing a flow battery-based system for longer duration storage. "We have a robust pipeline of projects that we are actively deploying both domestically and internationally," the spokeswoman said.