Chinese conglomerate surges to top spot on global utility-scale solar developer list

This week Wiki-solar released its latest ranking of the top 32 utility-scale solar EPCs. The company ranks the developers by number of projects developed and cumulative capacity brought online.  This year, a new company tops that list.

China’s State Power Investment Corporation (SPIC) rose to number one thanks to the 2.2-GWAC project its subsidiary Huanghe Hydropower completed in Qinghai province last year (more on that project, below).

Other notable climbers are NextEra Energy, whose subsidiary Florida Power and Light has commissioned several large projects in its home state; and France’s Engie with new plants in Europe, the Americas and Africa.

“Established energy multinationals are now moving strongly into the solar market,” said Wiki-Solar’s Philip Wolfe, who added that these new entrants are “breaking the monopoly which specialist solar companies like First Solar, juwi and the late SunEdison used to hold a decade ago.”

The world’s largest single solar plant

With a capacity of 2.2 GWAC (3.1 GWP), the new plant in Qinghai’s Gonghe County is the world’s largest single solar installation. Covering over 52 square km, it was built by Huanghe Hydropower in just 10 months and connected in September 2020. The power generated in this remote part of the country is dispatched via 1,500 km of 800-kV transmission lines to Beijing and Shanghai.

The new plant is some 15km west of the Longyangxia project, also developed by SPIC. This was itself the world’s largest project when first commissioned in 2013, taking over from another of their projects – a  200MWP installation from 2011 in Golmud Solar Park (about 500 km further west). SPIC’s reign was interrupted in 2019 when ADWEA’s 938MWAC project was commissioned in Abu Dhabi in 2019.

There are larger multi-phase or multiple owner ‘solar parks’, including Golmud Solar Park and Longyang­xia itself – both of which have been extended over the years to about 3GWAC – and Bhadla in India.

Top plant owners

Some project developers retain ownership of the projects, so many of the companies above appear too in the list of the top plant owners also released this week. (See table below.)

Additionally, other power producers and infrastructure funds buy plants from developers before or after construction. In the US these include Dominion, Global Infrastructure Partners, Con Ed, Duke Energy and D E Shaw Renewables (DESRI) all in the top 15. European investors on the list are France’s Neoen and Sonnedix; and UK-based Actis, Lightsource BP, Foresight and NextEnergy.

“Our lists are compiled from the cumulative AC capacity of operational plants over 4 MWAC”, said Wolfe, “so owners with older subsidy-backed assets will appear lower than they would, if ranked by value. Companies would also show higher figures if measured by MWP and if smaller projects were included.”

Source: Renewable Energy