In the energy transition, every year is a record year

As the energy transition accelerates, records tumble with increasing speed. What was the fastest, biggest, most powerful last month, might not hold the same position next month.

It’s not easy keeping up with records in the renewables sector. Many claims are made that upon closer investigation appear to be rather generous with the truth, or refer to a planned installation or one currently under construction. But here’s an attempt to record the latest world records involving many of the solutions of DecarbEurope’s partners. If you see any discrepancies or have an update, please let us know in the comments box below.

The largest concentrated solar power plant

This accolade currently goes to the Noor complex, located near the city of Ouarzazate in the Moroccan Sahara Desert. The project has a 580 MW capacity and is expected to provide electricity for over 1 million people once completed by 2020. Noor 1, the first phase of the three-part project, is already providing 160 MW and has reduced the country’s carbon emissions by hundreds of thousands of tonnes annually since it was switched on in 2016.

However, keep a watchful eye on Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), which has been awarded a contract to build a CSP facility to generate 700 MW of power. Its central tower – the heart of any CSP facility – will be the tallest in the world at 260 meters.

The biggest solar PV farm

The Kamuthi solar farm in the southern state of Tamil Nadu in India has a capacity of 648 MW and covers 10 square kilometres. The project comprises 2.5 million individual solar modules and cost approximately 679 million USD to build. At full capacity, it’s expected to produce enough electricity to power approximately 150,000 homes.

Kamuthi solar farm in India

The largest cold storage plant

The world’s largest cryogenic storage facility was recently commissioned in Manchester, UK. The purpose of the 5 MW/3 hour facility is to store renewable electricity at liquid air at -190°C. A lot of energy can be stored at these temperatures. When the liquid air is exposed to ambient conditions, its volume expands 700 times and can drive a turbine to generate electricity. The solution can be scaleable and a design of 200 MW/6 hour is already available.

The largest geothermal plant

The first geothermal power plant built at The Geysers in northern California dates back to 1921. Back then, it had a generation capacity of 250 kW. Over the years, new capacity has been added. It now includes 22 geothermal power plants and has a combined installed capacity of 1,520 MW. The power generated from The Geysers helps meet the electricity needs for California’s Sonoma, Mendocino, and Lake counties.

The hottest borehole

A five-kilometer shaft in Iceland is expected to reach down to where rocks are 500°C. The objective is to bring steam from the deep well back up to the surface to provide geothermal energy.

The largest hydro power station

This depends on whether you consider nameplate installed capacity (the maximum power a plant could produce at any moment when everything is running perfectly) or what the power plant actually produces. From the perspective of capacity, the three biggest hydro power plants in the world are:

  • Three Gorges (China): 22,500 GW
  • Itaipu (Brazil/Paraguay): 14,000 GW (photo below)
  • Xiluodu (China): 13,860 GW
Itaipu hydrro station Brazil

The largest nuclear power station

In terms of gross electricity generation in 2018 in billion kWh, the top three are:

  • Shin-Kori 3 (South Korea): 12.92
  • South Texas 2 (USA): 11.99
  • Palo Verde 3 (USA): 11.91

The largest heat pump

This honor goes to the zero carbon 90°C water heat pump developed by Star Refrigeration that heats the Norwegian city of Drammen (64,000 people) using water from the local fjord. Instead of using HFCs it uses ammonia, a non-ozone depleting refrigerant with zero global warming potential. The heat supplied is modulated from 2 MW during summer to 13.2 MW in winter.

The largest floating solar farm

This is in the Chinese city of Huainan, and is appropriately built over a former coal mine, which had become a lake after being flooded with groundwater. This 40 MW power plant consists of 120,000 solar panels (below) covering an area of more than 160 football fields. It could power 15,000 homes.

Floating solar farm China

The largest pumped storage station

The Bath County pumped storage station in Virginia, has a net generating capacity of 3,003 MW. However, a 3,600 MW Fengning plant in Hebei Province in China is under construction and is due to come online in 2021.

The largest biomass plant

Alholmens Kraft power plant on the premises of UPM-Kymmene Ab in Jakobstad, Finland burns 800 cubic metres of fuel per hour and produces 265 MWe of electricity, district heating for the inhabitants of Jakobstad, and process steam and heat for the UPM Kymmene plant. The boiler used by the plant is the largest Circulating Fluidised Bed Boiler in the world.

MGT Teesside is the company leading the biomass project on the banks of the River Tees in the UK, which has been more than 10 years in the making. Commissioning is expected at the end of 2019, after which the plant, which will be fuelled by wood chips and pellets, will generate electricity for the equivalent of 600,000 homes. MGT claim this will be the largest biomass plant in the world.

The largest space power station

The International Space Station is powered by 9,600 sq.ft, 892 sq.m. of solar arrays. This large array provides electricity at 160 V. Batteries are needed to store electricity for powering life support systems when the station is shielded from the sun. Through the combined PV-battery system, 78 kW power is continuously available in the station.

International Space Station

The largest tidal power plant

Sihwa Lake Tidal Power Station has a total power output capacity of 254 MW. It is operated by the Korea Water Resources Corporation.

The most productive tidal turbines

Two turbines in the Pentland Firth, Scotland set a world record for monthly production from a tidal stream power station, producing 700 MWh of electricity in August 2017, enough to power 2,000 homes.

UK firm Orbital Marine Power is claiming to have designed “the most powerful tidal generating platform in the world” when deployed in Orkney in 2020. During its initial 12-month test program, the SR2000 generated more than 3 gigawatt hours of electricity.

The largest onshore wind farm

The Alta Wind Energy Center in California, USA supplies 1,548 MW of renewable energy to its customers. It will continue through to 2040 under a 3,000 MW wind power development initiative, producing enough electricity to power 450,000 homes. Mention should be made of the Jiuquan Wind Power Base in China, where more than 7,000 turbines are capable of generating a massive 20,000 MW of power. However, many of its turbines remain idle or unconnected to the grid.

The largest offshore wind farm

Located in the Thames Estuary, UK, the 630 MW London Array offshore wind farm (below) is currently the world’s biggest operational offshore wind farm, covering an area of approximately 100 km². The wind farm has 175 wind turbines and generates enough electricity to power around half a million homes, and reduces 900,000 tons of CO2 emissions annually.

London Array wind farm

However, DONG Energy has been awarded the contract to build an even bigger one: the 1,386 MW Hornsea Project Two in the North Sea off the coast of England.

The offshore wind farm that has produced the most actual energy since commissioning is Horns Rev off the coast of Denmark. Since 2002, its 80 turbines have produced 5877 GWh of electricity.

The fastest electric vehicle

Due to zoom onto the market in 2020, on paper the Tesla Roadster is likely to be the world’s fastest car, period, with a claimed top speed of around 250 mph (400 kph). Blink and you might miss it accelerating from the traffic lights: 0-60mph in 1.9 seconds and 0-100mph in 4.2 seconds, which puts it in the frame of Formula 1 cars. 

Tesla Roadster

If those numbers are correct, then the Tesla Roadster will just out-accelerate the Rimac Concept One, which has a recorded 0-62 mph time of just 2.5 seconds. Its price tag is also other-worldly: you won’t get much change from 1 million USD.

… EVs with the greatest range

This is probably a more sensible criterion to evaluate electric vehicles. Top of the list is the Tesla Model S with a range of 218-315 miles (350-506 km), closely followed by its sibling the Tesla Model X with a range of 237-295 miles (381-474 km). More affordable but also impressive is the Chevrolet Bolt (238 miles/383 km).

The largest and most powerful wind turbine

Currently it’s the Vestas V-164 in Denmark’s Østerild offshore wind farm. Its rotor has a diameter of 164 metres and a sweep area of 21,124 square metres. Each blade weighs 33-35 tonnes. In January 2017 it produced a record 216,000 KWh over a 24-hour period.

GE Renewable Energy has plans to develop what it says will be the world’s largest and most powerful offshore wind turbine, the Haliade-X. It will stand 260 meters tall and have a capacity of 12 MW.

The country producing the least CO2 per capita

2017’s figures put Denmark (0.06 tonnes) at the top, followed by Finland (0.09), Nigeria (0.1) and Estonia (0.11). In comparison, selected countries at the other end of the scale are Qatar (35.73 tonnes), Curacao (30.43), Latvia (22.94) and USA (16.22).

The 20 most environmentally-friendly countries

Based on the 2018 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), which assesses how country policies meet internationally established environmental targets, the top countries are Switzerland (EPI 87.42), France (83.95), Denmark (81.60), Malta (80.90) and Sweden (80.51). It’s not fair to point out the countries with the lowest EPI rating; these are usually countries where war and civil unrest have pushed environmental concerns off the agenda.

Finally: A record-breaking year

According to renewables policy organisation REN21, in 2017 total global renewable power capacity, including hydropower, rose to 2,195 GW from 2,017 GW in the previous year. A record amount of renewable power capacity was installed worldwide, with an estimated 178 GW of capacity added.

New solar PV capacity reached a record 98 GW in 2017, up 29% from the previous year, while new wind capacity was at 52 GW, 4% lower than in 2016.

New investment in renewable power and fuels was almost $279 billion, up from $274 billion in 2016 and more than twice that of new fossil fuel and nuclear power capacity.

The figures for 2018 and expected to surpass the above.

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