With 2016 half-year figures, due next month, expected to show cumulative installed utility-scale solar capacity around 75 GW, this month’s article by Philip Wolfe looks at the contribution of project developers around the world. The ‘project developer’ is the company that takes projects through the design – and often also construction – phases.
Most of the world’s leading developers of utility-scale solar projects are located in the top five markets; China, USA, India, UK and Germany. However a handful of others have been successful in supplementing projects in their own country with portfolios of projects in other growth markets.
The list below contains the top utility-scale solar project developers.
|First Solar [US] (including Solar Chile)
|State Power Investment Corp [CN] (inc.
China Power Investment, Huanghe Company, Shanghai Electric Power Japan)
|SunEdison / MEMC [US] (inc. First Wind, Enfinity and Axio Power)
|Hareon Solar [CN]
|Shunfeng [CN] (inc. S.A.G Solarstrom)
|Canadian Solar [CA] (inc. Recurrent Energy,
|Juwi Solar [DE]
|GCL-Poly Energy Holdings [HK]
|Trina Solar [CN]
|Strata Solar [US]
|Innovative Solar Systems [US]
|Tenaska Solar Ventures [US]
|TBEA (Tebian Electric Apparatus ) [CN]
(inc. TBEA SunOasis)
|EDF Energies Nouvelles [FR]
(inc. EDF Renewable Energy, Fotosolar)
|Engie (formerly GDF Suez) [FR] (inc. SolaireDirect)
|CECEP (Energy Conservation & Environmental Protection Grp) [CN] (inc. CECEP Solar Company)
|SunPower Corporation [US]
|Activ Solar [AT]
|China Guodian Corporation [CN]
|Tata Power [IN] (inc. Welspun Renewables, Northwest Energy, Viraj Renewables Energy)
|Sempra Energy [US]
|Belectric [DE] (inc. Big60Million)
|Lightsource Renewable Energy [GB]
The leading Chinese developers have operated mainly inside China; while First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) and 8minuteenergy have similarly concentrated on the USA for most of their developments – though First Solar has of course supplied its panels to plants all over the world. Strata and Innovative Solar have focused even more tightly on individual US states.
By contrast, SunEdison (OTCMKTS:SUNEQ) had an aggressive strategy to develop and acquire projects in most of the leading global markets. It has been suggested that this may have been over-ambitious, leading to the present financial restructuring exercise. Juwi, Enerparc and GCL-Poly (HKG:3800), amongst others have adopted an international profile, working in selected growth markets.
A similar approach has been followed by the national utilities most active in the sector. EDF (EPA:EDF), Engie (EPA:ENGI) and Enel (BIT:ENEL, which fell just outside the above list) all started with developments in their home market, but have since found promising overseas territories to expand their development portfolios.
Many leading companies in the sector have opted for vertical diversification as a strategy for strengthening their market position. Some of these top developers have therefore integrated up- and/or down-wards into plant ownership or construction activities. Others started out as manufacturers, contractors or owners and have subsequently moved into project development.
First Solar for example is fundamentally a solar panel producer, but has now diversified into project development, and more recently ownership. Canadian Solar and Trina, amongst others, are following a similar path.
Juwi and Enerparc started downstream in engineering and construction, but are now heavily involved in development, and in Enerparc’s case also retain a portfolio of operating projects. Lightsource started as an asset owner (or IPP – independent power producer) buying projects from other developers, but has subsequently diversified into its own developments.
It will be interesting to see if this sort of diversification continues, as the sector matures; or whether companies re-focus back to core competencies.
Source of data
All the details in these posts are based on the Wiki-Solar Database of some 5,700 utility-scale PV solar projects around the world. Unless otherwise stated, capacities are expressed in terms of the AC output of the plant, and ‘utility-scale’ is defined as projects of 4-MWAC and over.
About the author:
Philip Wolfe MBE has been in renewables since the 1970’s when he was founder Chief Executive of BP Solar. He led companies in the PV sector until the early 2000’s. Since then he has undertaken more broadly-based roles in renewable and community energy. His book on utility-scale solar was published in 2012.
Choose your newsletter by Renewables Now. Join for free!