Innovation and collaboration pave the way for the nation’s largest solar project with integrated storage

Jun 7, 2023

In Kern County, California, Avantus is again redefining the energy sector through record-breaking projects that showcase our commitment to innovation and collaboration.

The company recently sold what is the nation’s largest permitted solar project with integrated storage1 — Bellefield. This project will feature one-gigawatt of solar and up to one-gigawatt of energy storage.

Mobilizing and permitting the county’s largest solar with storage project is no simple feat. But through innovative problem-solving and by pursuing a deeply collaborative approach with local and state partners, Avantus overcame various hurdles to establish this unprecedented milestone.

Breathing new life into underutilized land

Bellefield is located on a former military testing site, which has been heavily grazed, bringing immense value to land that otherwise had limited use. The project site is bordered by aerospace industry leaders – the Mojave Air and Space Port and Edwards Air Force Base – and dozens of local landowners.

Over several years, Avantus collaborated with the Federal Aviation Administration and Mojave Air and Space Port and worked closely with these neighbors to create a project that would limit disruption and revitalize devalued land. Ongoing communication and coordination led to a strong working relationship among partners, incorporating key feedback and developing site-specific solutions together.

The team worked with a number of parties and regulators to create a plan for a 16-mile generation-intertie (gen-tie) line that carefully and efficiently weaves around public and private land and infrastructure.

This siting approach is especially timely as California Governor Gavin Newsom recently outlined his plan to accelerate the clean energy transition and upgrade the state’s grid. Avantus’ work is key to supporting both local and national ambitions as we lead the energy transition in California and beyond.

Protecting our public land

Avantus broke the mold with a novel mitigation strategy to pair with its ambitious projects in Kern County, including Bellefield. In collaboration with the Bureau of Land Management, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Avantus spearheaded the Onyx Conservation Project (Onyx), which reflects the company’s creative, dedicated approach to building clean energy responsibly while preserving our precious environment.

Roughly seven times larger than San Francisco, Onyx is notable for its unprecedented, contiguous size, providing critical conservation of the Mojave desert ecosystem on behalf of Bellefield and other projects. This Avantus initiative established a roadmap for collaborating with state and federal partners to develop different solutions to mitigation that balance conservation with the state’s climate goals. 

Empowering the local community

As with any Avantus endeavor, this project will support the local economy. Bellefield builds upon Avantus’ long-standing relationship with Kern County, courtesy of the County’s business-friendly tradition and track record for renewable energy innovation. A previous Avantus solar project in Kern — the Springbok Solar Cluster — was one of the first operating solar plants to beat the cost of fossil fuels, and Bellefield is surrounded by one of the largest wind farms in the nation.

The project is expected to generate additional lasting positive impacts, including:

  • Bringing up to 1,000 union construction jobs curing peak construction and indirect jobs to the area
  • Providing local tax revenue to the community and county
  • Offsetting 2.25 million metric tons of CO2 per year — the equivalent of removing nearly half a million cars from the road (around the number of cars registered in Kern County today)

A blueprint for future projects

“At Avantus, our vision is as bold as the climate crisis we face,” said Dr. Tom Buttgenbach, Founder and CEO of Avantus.

Projects like this showcase Avantus’ monumental success in developing projects that are at the epicenter of the nation’s fight against the climate crisis.

We pride ourselves in thinking outside the box and our dedication to the relentless pursuit of better. Our thoughtfully curated projects ensure that economic benefits of solar are realized by everyone, everywhere. We are proud to continue breaking records and reaching industry “firsts.” This milestone could not have been met without the incredible team at Avantus and our partners, and together, we are setting new standards for what’s possible in the clean energy transition.

1. According to global research and consulting firm Wood Mackenzie, Bellefield Solar and Storage Project is currently the largest solar and storage project out of operating, late-stage development and permitting projects in the United States.

Published by

Erec DeVost

Vice President, Permitting at Avantus

I've been in the energy industry for more than 15 years, where I've helped develop and permit several clean energy projects across the Southwest. At Avantus, I lead the team responsible for environmental permitting and land entitlement for the company’s project portfolio, now totaling more than 50 gigawatts (GW) of clean, reliable energy — enough to provide power for over 30 million people.

I am currently involved in industry efforts to conserve western Joshua trees while also addressing climate change and helped pioneer Avantus’ Onyx Conservation Project, one of the largest mitigation projects in the nation, providing critical, permanent protection and enhancement of Mojave Desert plants and animals. Outside of work, you'll find him on the Kern River exercising the native trout population.