- The Orlando Utilities Commission and Malta, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based startup, announced an agreement last week to look at ways to apply Malta’s long-duration energy storage system to help the central Florida utility reach its net-zero carbon emission goals.
- In its 2020 Electric Integrated Resource Plan, OUC said it has committed $420 million to solar technology and $90 million to energy storage.
- Malta says its 100+ megawatt system provides more hours of energy storage than lithium-ion batteries. The deal with OUC is Malta’s first with a municipal utility.
OUC said in its 2020 IRP that it’s looking to reduce coal-fired generation significantly by 2025 and eliminate it no later than 2027. It would use coal-to-gas conversion as a bridge and solar as the main source of new energy and invest in energy storage.
The utility pledged to achieve net zero CO2 emissions by 2050 and has set interim targets of 50% CO2 emissions reduction by 2030 and 75% reduction by 2040 compared to 2005 levels.
Orlando is one of four Florida cities, along with Miami, St. Petersburg and Tampa, seeking to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050. OUC, the second largest municipal utility in Florida, serves more than 268,000 customers.
Malta’s storage system converts excess electricity into thermal energy that’s stored in salt and coolant. When needed, the plant regenerates gigawatt hours of electricity for residential and commercial use, according to the company.
OUC considered the various energy challenges in Florida. Wind, hydroelectric and geothermal are not practical in Florida, the utility said in its IRP. Biomass and landfill gas, while possible resources, are available only in small quantities, it added.
“That leaves the state’s utilities with one feasible renewable asset: sunshine, which poses its own challenges,” OUC said.
With solar power, electricity is not produced at night or at scale on cloudy days. With an average of 277 partly cloudy days a year in Orlando, intermittency is a concern and backup resources are needed for power to be available, OUC said.
Florida had an overall transmission import capacity of about 6% of forecast summer peak load in 2020, when OUC isued its latest IRP.
“These realities restrict Florida’s renewable energy portfolio until further technology advancements and additional transmission access alters the landscape,” it said. As a result, OUC said it’s investing in a “balance of sustainable solutions.”
Luke Rose, head of sustainability at Malta, a spinoff of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, said OUC and Malta will arrange a power purchase agreement, continue site engineering and put together financing. “A lot of the timeline is being driven by the grant money out there,” he said in an interview Monday.
Funding could include money from the bipartisan infrastructure law, and OUC and Malta are “eagerly awaiting” Internal Revenue Service guidelines on investment tax credits from the Inflation Reduction Act, Rose said. The two partners hope to break ground in 2024 and be online in 2026, he said.