This paper outlines one of the first efforts by a major oil and gas company to build a net exporting, behind the meter solar photovoltaic (PV) plant to lower the operating costs and carbon intensity of a large, mature oil and gas field in Lost Hills, California. The 29 MWAC (35 MWDC) Lost Hills solar plant, commissioned in April 2020, covers approximately 220 acres on land adjacent to the oil field and is designed to provide more than 1.4 billion kilowatt hours of solar energy over 20 years to the field's oil and gas field production and processing facilities. The upgrades to the electrical infrastructure in the field also include new technology to reduce the risk of sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) emissions, another potent greenhouse gas (GHG).

Prior to solar, the Lost Hills field was importing all its electricity from the grid. With the introduction of the Innovative Crude Program as part of California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) and the revisions to the California Public Utilities Commission Net Energy Metering program, Lost Hills was presented with a unique opportunity to reduce its imported electricity expenses, reduce its carbon intensity, while also generating LCFS credits. The plant was designed to power the field during the day and export excess power to the grid to help offset night-time electricity purchases. The solar plant operates under a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the solar PV provider and, initially, will meet approximately 80% of the oil field's energy needs. Future plans include the incorporation of lithium ion batteries, DC-coupled with the solar inverters, and with a total capacity of 20 MWh. This energy storage system will increase the amount of solar electricity fed directly into the field and reduce costs by controlling when the site uses stored solar electricity rather than electricity from the grid. The battery system will also increase the number of LCFS credits by 15% over credits generated by solar alone. Together, solar power plus energy storage provides a robust renewable energy solution.

This project will generate multiple co-benefits for the Lost Hills oil field by lowering the cost of power, reducing GHG emissions, generating state LCFS credits and federal Renewable Energy Certificates, and demonstrating a commitment to energy transition by investing in renewable technology. Hopefully, Lost Hills solar can be a model for similar future projects in other oil fields, not only in California, but across the globe.

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