Thirty years after Denmark built the first offshore wind farm, it’s pioneering another energy first: creating an artificial island expected to generate enough wind power for the country’s entire grid, plus other parts of Europe. Slated to be operational in 2033, the DKK210 billion Danish Energy Agency facility is the largest construction project in the country’s history. And the North Sea hub could also provide a blueprint for other coastal nations looking for alternatives to traditional land-gobbling renewable energy infrastructure.
9th Most Influential Project of 2021
To really move the needle on Chile’s energy consumption, Mainstream Renewable Power is thinking big: a US$1.8 billion project to build seven wind farms and three photovoltaic solar farms across the country. One of the largest renewable energy initiatives in Latin America, it could supply 1.3 gigawatts of clean power, enough to meet the needs of 20 percent of Chilean households, when all the pieces go fully operational as early as 2022. That could mean a significant advance toward Chile’s ambitious 2050 carbon neutrality target.
15th Most Influential Project of 2021
The United Arab Emirates is getting serious about alternatives to fossil fuel: setting out to build what’s being billed as the world’s largest single-site solar power plant. Located 35 kilometers (22 miles) south of Abu Dhabi City, the US$1 billion Al Dhafra project is the brainchild of Abu Dhabi National Energy Co.—which sees it as a gamechanger. When project financing closed in December 2020, group CEO and Managing Director Jasim Husain Thabet called it a “benchmark project for our nation and the global energy sector.” The multinational team also includes Masdar, EDF Renouvelables and Jinko Power.
20th Most Influential Project of 2021
When government leaders in Helsinki dangled a €1 million prize for “radically new energy solutions,” Carlo Ratti Associati (CRA) went bold. The Italian design firm conjured up Hot Heart, a floating archipelago of basins that act as giant thermal batteries—and a recreational destination. In an era of offshore wind and solar farms, Hot Heart’s tech advantage is an AI-fueled system designed to synchronize production and consumption. The CRA team achieved this by working with a global cohort of experts from Ramboll, Transsolar , Danfoss, Schneider Electric, OP Financial Group, Schlaich Bergermann Partner and Squint/Opera.
39th Most Influential Project of 2021
A team at the Institute of Plasma Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Hefei hit a new world record when its nuclear reactor held 120 million degrees Celsius (216 million degrees Fahrenheit) for 101 seconds in May. The team designed the “artificial sun” reactor to replicate the nuclear fusion process that occurs naturally in the sun and stars. The ultimate goal? Help researchers better understand what it takes to produce almost infinite clean energy through controlled nuclear fusion, paving the way for a carbon-neutral future.
With a US$12 million infusion in August 2020, led by Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy venture, smart grid startup SparkMeter launched a new digital tool designed to help utilities in emerging markets to simultaneously improve electricity access and mitigate carbon emissions. The service’s two-way meter communication and smart grid software were designed specifically for hard-to-reach and low-consumption end users, letting utilities improve load management, customer services, and billing.
It’ll be second in size to China’s Three Gorges Dam, but this massive hydropower project claims some impressive records of its own: largest underground caverns, largest anti-seismic parameters and largest spillway caverns. Developed by Jinsha River Chuanyun Hydropower Development Co.—a joint venture between the company behind Three Gorges, Sichuan Energy Investment Group and Yunnan Energy Investment Group—the US$34 billion hydropower plant is slated for completion by July 2022, after commencing partial operations of its first two turbines in June 2021. When fully operational, the station could generate approximately 62 billion kilowatt hours of clean energy—and offset more than 51 million tons of carbon emissions—annually.
The largest renewable energy project in South Africa to date is a ZAR11.6 billion solar power plant led by Saudi developer ACWA Power in partnership with local partners, including the Central Energy Fund and Pele Green Energy. Plans for the 100-megawatt Redstone project include a 12-hour thermal storage system that will deliver clean and reliable electricity to nearly 200,000 households. The project will also support South Africa’s decarbonization efforts and socioeconomic growth by displacing approximately 440 metric tons of carbon emissions per year and creating more than 2,000 construction jobs at its peak. Now being built, the plant is scheduled to begin operations in late 2023.
The Indian state of Madhya Pradesh will soon be home to the world’s largest floating solar plant. Located on the reservoir formed by the Omkareshwar Dam across the Narmada River, the US$410 million array will have panels that can automatically adjust their position when the water level at the dam is low. Financially supported by International Finance Corp., The World Bank and Indian electric utility giant Power Grid, the 600-megawatt facility will also be designed to withstand strong waves and floods. The Indian government is aiming for it to be operational by 2023. But in the meantime, project leaders are looking to quell concern about the plant’s potential to disrupt water ecosystems with plans to issue a tender to study environmental and social impacts.
Prompted by a surfeit of unwanted oranges rolling around the streets of Seville, Spain, municipal water company Emasesa rolled out a project to redirect landfill-bound produce to power one of its wastewater treatment plants. Energy extracted from the fermented fruit is used to drive the plant’s generator and produce electricity, recycling 35 metric tons of discarded fruit in the process. Given the amount of fruit at Emasesa’s disposal, there’s huge potential: If all the city’s excess oranges were converted to energy, some 73,000 homes could be produce-powered—an outcome that could help further Spain’s larger goal to transition to renewable electricity by 2050.