2010 was the year in which offshore wind came of age. The UK’s Crown Estate led the way, announcing the winners of its Round 3 tender process in January 2010, which will see an additional 32 gigawatts (GW) of clean electricity feeding into the UK grid from offshore wind farms in the North Sea, on top of the 8 GW planned from previous rounds.
This initiative is by far and the way the largest of its kind currently under way in the world and has also meant that some of the largest offshore wind projects to be completed in 2010 were located around the UK; the biggest being the $1.2 billion Thanet offshore wind farm near the coast of Kent. This 300-megawatts (MW) array officially started sending power to the grid in the last quarter of the year and is currently the largest offshore wind farm in the world.
Despite its impressive size, Thanet will be dwarfed by subsequent wind farms that are in the pipeline as part of Round 3, including Dogger Bank at 9 GW, Norfolk Bank (7.2 GW), and Irish Sea (4.2 GW).
Returning to the largest projects of 2010, Thanet was followed by Rødsand II, a 207 MW extension of an existing wind farm in Denmark installed by E.ON (EOAN.DE) in 2010, and the 180 MW Robin Rigg wind farm, again constructed by E.ON in April. This is Scotland's first offshore wind farm.
Turning to wind farms on land, the US was the place to be in 2010, with the Roscoe wind farm--the largest onshore wind farm in the world--being commissioned in November. This 781.5 MW wind farm was closely followed by the Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center at 735.5 MW. The largest wind farm under construction is also in the US and consists of the 800 MW Alta Wind Energy Center, while the largest proposed project is the massive 10 GW Gansu wind farm in China; a country which will undoubtedly boast some of the largest wind projects in 2011.
The editors of Hydroworld.com outlined the biggest projects in the hydroelectric sector, finding that the largest project to begin operation in 2010 also holds the record as Southeast Asia's largest hydroelectric power station. The first of six turbines at Vietnam’s 2.4 GW Son La station was connected to the national power grid in late December, and it is forecast that the two-billion-dollar plant will be fully operational in 2012, three years ahead of a target set by the National Assembly.
South East Asia is also home to the second largest project that went online in 2010. The Nam Theun 2 hydroelectric power project in Laos was completed in December at a cost of $1.45 billion and has a capacity of 1,070 MW. The project is co-owned by Electricite de France, the Lao government, the Electricity Generating Public Co. of Thailand and Italian-Thai Development.
Major hydro power projects were also completed in Brazil (the 855 MW Foz do Chapeco hydropower plant) and Ethiopia (the 460 MW Beles plant), while the largest hydroelectric project in North America (the Toba Montrose project) went online in British Columbia (Canada) after three years of construction and at a cost of $663 million.
Europe was very much at the forefront of major solar photovoltaic (PV) projects throughout last year, with all but the largest of the top eight projects being constructed in Italy, Germany and Spain. Nonetheless, prompted by a succulent feed-in tariff, the largest solar PV array to be completed in 2010 was located in Ontario (Canada), after solar developers chose to expand the Sarnia PV plant to a 97 MW capacity.
Developed by SunRay Renewable and acquired by SunPower (Nasdaq: SPWRA; SPWRB) in February 2010, the Montalto di Castro in Italy followed closely behind the Sarnia plant, with a capacity of 84.2 MW. Third slot was held by Q-cells International’s (QCE.DE) 80.7 MW Solarpark Finsterwalde I,II,III in Germany.
While the US continues to lead in overall geothermal development, the top three biggest geothermal projects completed during 2010 were all located outside the country.
The biggest plant in 2010 was built at Rotokawa in New Zealand. Coming in at 132 MW, Mighty River Power’s Nga Awa Purua plant is the largest single-turbine project ever developed.
Italy again figured as host of one of the flagship renewable projects of the year, when the second-largest geothermal plant to be constructed in 2010 was competed at the Larderello field, which has been under exploitation for 80 years. Enel Green Power’s (EGPW.MI) Nuova Radicondoli 2 and Chiusdino 1 wells, both 20-MW, came online this year.
Finally, Africa was home to the third biggest project fully completed in 2010. Sited in Kenya, the 35 MW expansion of the Olkaria II power plant brought the entire project to a total capacity of 105 MW, making it the largest geothermal plant in Africa.
The US and Brazil were the most favorable locations for new ethanol plants last year, with most of the sector’s top eight projects being started up in these two countries. The developer ADM (NYSE: ADM) was responsible for the two largest plants, located in Iowa and Nebraska (US). Each has a maximum output of 300 million gallons per annum and uses corn as a feed stock.
Brazil is home to the sixth, seventh and eighth largest plants, the first two in Goiás and with capacities of 98 and 95 million gallons per annum each, and the latter sited in Mato Grosso, also with a capacity of 95 million gallons per year. All three plants operate using sugarcane.
In the renewable diesel segment, Dynamic Fuels in Geismar, Louisiana (US) headed the field, when its synthetic diesel plant was commissioned. The plant produces 75 million gallons of renewable fuels per year from non-food grade animal fats produced or procured by Tyson Foods.
Nestlé Oil opened the largest renewable diesel plant in the world in 2010. Located in Singapore, the plant produces 240 million gallons per annum of NExBTL renewable diesel from a mix of palm oil, rapeseed oil, and waste fat from the food industry.
While the list compiled by Renewable Energy World is certainly not definitive, leaving out for example the solar thermal electric sector that saw a number of major new plants go live during 2010 including Acciona’s (ANA.MC) Palma del Rio facility in Cordoba (Spain), it does go some way to reflecting how much progress the clean energy sector is making as we move forward into the next decade.