Renewable energy development continued at a good pace this year, with record-breaking projects announced almost as often as once per week. The editors of the renewable energy world network put our heads together to compile a list of the biggest renewable energy projects installed or completed this year as our year-end wrap-up report.
The editors of Hydroworld.com offered the following project reports for 2010. The largest project that began operation in 2010 also holds the record as Southeast Asia's largest hydroelectric power station. The first of six turbines at Vietnam's Son La station was connected to the national power grid in late December. Officials said that the two-billion-dollar plant with a capacity of 2,400 MW is expected to be fully operational in 2012, three years ahead of a target set by the National Assembly.
The second largest project that went online in 2010 took place in Laos and is that country's largest plant in history. Laos officially inaugurated the 1,070-MW Nam Theun 2 hydroelectric power project in December. The $1.45 billion project is co-owned by Electricite de France, the Lao government, the Electricity Generating Public Co. of Thailand and Italian-Thai Development. After five years of construction, the plant began supplying neighboring Thailand with power in March of 2010.
Next in line was Brazil's 855-MW Foz do Chapeco hydropower plant, which launched commercial operations at its second of four generating unit in November 2010. The first unit began commercial operation in October. The plant is 51 percent owned by utility group CPFL Energia and sits on the border of southern states Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina. Alstom supplied the turbines for this project.
Another large project that went online in 2010 is the 460-MW Beles plant in Ethiopia. The project is owned by Ethiopia Electric Power Corporation. It is worth noting that the 300 MW Tekeze Hydropower plant, which also went online in 2010 in Ethiopia, was Power Engineering's Renewable Project of the Year.
The largest hydro project in North America that went online in 2010 was the Toba Montrose project in British Columbia. After three years of construction, Plutonic Power completed the $663 million Toba-Montrose run-of-river project, the largest source of privately generated renewable power in British Columbia. The 196-MW Toba-Montrose project began selling power to BC Hydro in August. The project includes a 73-MW run-of-river facility on Montrose Creek and a 123-MW facility on the East Toba River. The 123-MW plant on the East Toba River is the largest run-of-river facility in British Columbia.
The largest offshore wind projects that were completed in 2010 were located around the UK. Seven miles off the coast of Kent at its closet point, the $1.2 billion Thanet Offshore Wind Farm officially began powering the UK grid with 300 MW of new renewable energy capacity in the last quarter of the year. For the time being, the wind farm is the largest offshore wind farm in the world.
Next in line is Rødsand II, a 207-MW extension of an existing wind farm in Denmark that was installed by E.ON in 2010.
Finally, construction of the 180-MW Robin Rigg Wind Farm, Scotland's first offshore wind farm, was completed by E.ON in April 2010.
Lastly, the Gunfleet Sands Offshore Wind Farm, a 172-MW wind farm 7 km off the Clacton-on-Sea and Holland Essex coast in the Northern Thames Estuary, was commissioned in June 2010.
Many of the largest operational onshore wind farms are located in the USA. As of November 2010, the Roscoe Wind Farm is the largest onshore wind farm in the world at 781.5 MW, followed by the Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center at 735.5 MW. The largest wind farm under construction is the 800 MW Alta Wind Energy Center in the USA. The largest proposed project is the 10,000 MW Gansu Wind Farm in China.
In 2010 the following very large projects came online in the U.S. If readers know of larger wind power projects that went online in 2010 in other regions of the world, please let us know if the comments section below.
The 600-MW Fowler Ridge Wind Farm currently consists of two completed phases with the possibility of a third phase some time in the near future. The wind farm is in Benton County, Indiana, near the city of Fowler, IN. The planned total capacity of the project when all phases have been completed is 750MW. Developers are BP Alternative Energy North America Inc and Dominion Resources.
The 404-MW Penascal Wind Farm, located in Kenedy County, Texas was completed in April 2010. The developer is Iberdrola.
Iberdrola also developed the third biggest wind farm that went online in the US in 2010. The 300-MW Streator Cayuga Ridge South Wind Farm, located near Streator, Illinois, officially started generating power in May 2010.
Europe dominated much of the very large solar PV project announcements this year. However Ontario Canada's expanded Sarnia PV plant with a 97-MW capacity was the largest PV power plant commissioned this year. The second through 8th biggest plants were built in Italy, Germany and Spain with a U.S. plant coming in at number 9. The chart below lists the top three plants but the full list of project announcements can be found at this link.
A number of large geothermal projects came online this year and even though the U.S. continues to lead in overall development, the top three biggest projects of 2010 were all outside the country.
The biggest plant in 2010 was developed at the Rotokawa field in New Zealand. The 132-MW Nga Awa Purua plant is the largest single-turbine project ever developed. The turbine was manufactured by Fuji Electric and the power plant is owned and operated by Mighty River Power.
The second-largest plant was in Italy at the Larderello field, a resource-rich area that has been delivering energy since 1930. The Nuova Radicondoli 2 and Chiusdino 1, both 20-MW, came online this year. The turbines were manufactured by GE and the project is owned and operated by Enel Green Power.
Finally, the third biggest project fully completed in 2010 was in Kenya, with the 35-MW expansion of the Olkaria II power plant. The addition brings the project to 105 MW and makes it the largest in Africa. The turbine was manufactured by Mitsubishi Electric Corporation and operated by the Kenya Electricity Generation Company.
Transportation Fuels — Ethanol
The U.S. and Brazil were the most favorable locations for new ethanol plants this year, with most of the industry's top 8 projects coming online in either of those two countries. Below is a table that shows the biggest biofuel facilities that began operation in 2010. Hart's Global Biofuels Center compiled the data. Tammy Klein, Assistant Vice President of the organization noted that there is another large facility in the U.S. — the Aventine plant in Aurora, IL – that is almost complete but "the 113 million gallon plant won't actually start producing until spring 2011."
Transportation Fuels — Renewable Diesel and Biofuel from Waste
In the renewable diesel space, there were two interesting announcements this year. Dynmic Fuels came online in 2010 with a 75 MGPY sythentic diesel plant that produces renewable fuels from non-food grade animal fats produced or procured by Tyson Foods, such as beef tallow, pork lard, chicken fat and greases. In addition, Neste Oil started operation in 2010 of the largest renewable diesel plant in the world in Singapore with a capacity of 240 MGPY. Its NExBTL renewable diesel is produced from a mix of palm oil, rapeseed oil, and waste fat from the food industry.
In 2011, look for announcements from two waste-to-fuel companies. Enerkem, expects to have a 10 MGPY plant that produces ethanol from non-recyclable and non-compostable municipal solid waste (MSW) in Edmonton, Alberta CAN. Construction began on the facility in Jun 2010. Fiberight has a 6 MGPY plant that is set to begin operation in 2011 in Blairstown OH. The plant will use MSW as a feedstock.
A list of the biggest biomass to electricity plants that went online in the U.S. is below. Unfortunately tracking down the largest biomass to electricity plants that came online globally proved to be beyond the scope of this article. If any readers know of larger biomass to electricity plants that went online in 2010 in other regions, please let us know in the comments section below.
Amanda Hamsley Lang, Operations Manager at Forisk Consulting and Managing Editor of Wood Bioenergy US, provided the information on the U.S. plants, below. Download past and future summaries here.
Note that these plants may not be operating at full capacity just yet, although full capacity is listed in the above table. Lang said to keep your eye out for the 50-MW Aspen Power plant in Lufkin, TX, which is expected to go online in the spring of 2011. The plant began testing its facility this month.
Sidebar: Largest Energy Storage Installations
Research and development is underway on energy storage solutions, what some experts call the holy grail of renewable energy growth. If we can figure out a way to store all of the renewable energy that we can generate, the story goes, then dealing with the intermittency of wind and solar energy won't be such a big issue.
The largest lead-acid energy storage system in operation is a 10-MW system in Chino, California, built in 1988. The first commercial compressed-air energy storage system is a 290-MW unit built in Hundorf, Germany in 1978, and it remains the world's largest CAES install. The largest sodium sulfur (NaS) battery installation is a 34-MW unit for wind stabilization in Northern Japan. The largest pumped-hydro operation in the world in Lewiston (Niagara) with 2880-MW, which went online in 1961. That's followed by an operation in Bath County in Virginia, (USA) with 2700 MW of storage, which went online in 1985. The third largest operation in the world is in Guangzhu, China. This 2400-MW facility went online in 2000.