European drivers snapped up 2.3 million electrical vehicles last year, and rising fuel prices and environmental targets mean that appetite for electric isn’t expected to wane anytime soon. To help power all those EVs, French industrial startup Verkor revealed plans to build its first “gigafactory,” with capacity to equip 300,000 vehicles with batteries annually. The project could turn the country into a hotspot for EV battery cell production, as well as jumpstart the sagging manufacturing sector.
17th Most Influential Project of 2022
Without a robust charging network in place, electric-vehicle sales won’t gain much speed. So the U.S. government is spending US$7.5 billion to build out a much-needed network of 500,000 electric vehicle (EV) charging stations throughout the country. But the private sector is making some power moves, too. In March, coffeemaker Starbucks and Swedish automaker Volvo announced a joint project to build a public network of high-speed EV chargers at Starbucks locations between Denver and Seattle. The pilot is scheduled to be completed later this year, and Starbucks has already announced it may consider expanding the project nationwide.
24th Most Influential Project of 2022
In the frigid North Atlantic between Iceland and Norway sit 18 Danish islands known as the Faroes. Everything the islands’ 48,000 residents need must be brought in from afar—including their energy. The government wants to transition to 100 percent renewable energy generation by 2030, and a joint program between local utility provider SEV and Swedish energy firm Minesto is powering a big part of that transition. The companies have already completed a two-year pilot of Minesto’s novel “sea dragon” tidal turbines that combine different wing spans, generator sizes and tether lengths to maximize yield on a site. And in April came details of a large-scale build-out of tidal arrays capable of supplying 40 percent of the nation’s electricity consumption. As SEV CEO Hákun Djurhuus said: “We can lead the way for other island and coastal communities.”
32nd Most Influential Project of 2022
Climate change is sparking renewed interest in microgrids—and their potential to keep the power on in a community, even in the face of major weather events. A US$25 million microgrid project in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood pushes the concept even farther by proving how two microgrids can successfully work together—allowing them to both island from the grid and share energy during an emergency. Led by utility ComEd, a unit of Chicago-based Exelon Corp, the six-year project is believed to be the first neighborhood-scale microgrid cluster in the United States—and it stands to influence urban planning around the globe.
39th Most Influential Project of 2022
Wind projects seem like a no-brainer in Peru, given the country’s geography. But a lack of infrastructure has held back major project investment. Acciona Energía’s US$180 million San Juan de Marcona Wind Farm project could buck those headwinds—and help the government reach its goal to use more renewable energy and slash emissions by 40 percent by 2030. With a planned capacity of 5.7 megawatts, the onshore wind farm would create enough electricity to meet the needs of nearly half a million households. And the project’s 33-kilometer (21-mile) transmission line will connect the 23 wind turbines to the National Interconnected Electric System. Construction began in April, with an operational target of late 2023.
Green hydrogen energy generated by offshore wind farms is typically carried back to land via a network of high voltage transmission systems, which can be costly to build. But the companies behind the AquaSector initiative—including RWE, Shell, Gasunie and Equinor—have a different vision: a central pipeline which, they argue, would be far more cost-efficient. So these global titans have teamed up on the AquaDuctus project, an energy pipeline designed to bring up to 20,000 metric tons of green hydrogen energy to the German archipelago of Heligoland by 2028. With a feasibility study announced in July 2021, the project will serve as proof of concept for the ultimate endeavor: a 10-gigawatt offshore hydrogen park, the output of which will be pipelined to mainland Germany.
When the Wudongde Hydropower Station opened last year on the Jinsha river in southwest China, it became more than one of the tallest dams ever built. It’s also the central feature of the attached hydropower station, which houses a total of 12 hydro-turbine generating units capable of generating an estimated 38.9 billion kilowatt-hours annually—enough electricity to power the annual needs of roughly 300,000 people. Although the project took more than seven years to complete, the impact will be huge—and will also help China achieve its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2060.
Wave energy parks are relatively rare, largely because research is still slim on how to best harness this type of power and integrate it into existing infrastructure. So a broad, global group—including the U.S. Department of Energy, Oregon State University, the European Marine Energy Centre and Scottish environmental consultants Aquatera—have come together to create PacWave. The grid-connected test facility near the deep-water port of Newport, Oregon, USA, will be a proving ground for wave energy conversion technology prototypes. The northern pilot site, completed in late 2021, was designed to accommodate smaller-scale testing. The more ambitious southern site, currently under construction, will include four berths in which separate wave energy-capturing devices can be tested simultaneously. The site also is prepermitted to allow for speedier design trial and error with minimal bureaucratic slowdown. Construction is slated to be complete next year, with grid connectivity scheduled for 2024.
Homes heated by potato chips? That’s the innovative idea announced by PepsiCo and Ion in June 2021. The global food and beverage giant was looking for ways to offset its carbon emissions, while the Belgium real estate developer sought sustainable energy alternatives for a community in Veurne, Belgium. So the two joined forces, along with tech company Noven and utility grid Fluvius, to develop a system in which cooking vapor (from cooking up to 20 tons of potatoes per hour) heats a well-insulated underground water circuit, ultimately heating nearly 500 nearby homes. The project, finished earlier this year, also powers PepsiCo toward its target to cut carbon emissions 40 percent by 2030.
Japan and the Philippines each experience roughly two dozen typhoons annually—and climate change is making such storms both stronger and more frequent. That has made wind a tough sell in the global transition to renewable energy. Japanese energy startup Challenergy aims to win over the skeptics with a wind turbine that eschews traditional windmill-style design for an upright square blade that spins horizontally around a central tower—a shift that increases the turbine’s efficiency, regardless of which way the wind blows, and allows it to remain operational even during extreme weather. In August 2021, the company installed a 10-kilowatt prototype of its Magnus tower in the Philippines, as part of Japan’s Ministry of the Environment’s Co-Innovation Project for the Creation and Dissemination of Decarbonatization Technology. And when Typhoon Kiko hit in September 2021, the company announced the turbine had made it through with no major structural problems.