OVERVIEW - Utilities join the party as solar power goes mainstream

Lightsource BP expansion into Brazilian PV sector

March 8 (Renewables Now) - The list of the world’s top solar power plant owners released by Wiki-Solar.org shows that leading energy utilities are building significant solar portfolios.

Chinese, US and Indian power companies now have substantial solar capacity in their home markets, while European multinationals are building global portfolios. This marks a major shift – just five years ago there were only six utilities in the top thirty.

The top solar generation owners, based on identified cumulative capacity to the end of 2018 were:

Rank Plant Owners Capacity MWac
1 State Power Investment Corporation [CN] 2,659
2 NextEra Energy [US] 2,627
3 Global Infrastructure Partners [US] 2,060
4 Enel Green Power [IT] 2,015
5 Adani [IN] 1,957
6 Panda Green Energy [CN] 1,832
7 ACME [IN] 1,629
8 Southern Power [US] 1,494
9 NTPC [IN] 1,391
10 AES Corporation [US] 1,301
11 Consolidated Edison Development [US] 1,256
12 EDF [FR] 1,182
13 Dominion Energy [US] 1,153
14 Lightsource BP [GB] 1,102
15 Canadian Solar [CA] 1,100
16 Enerparc [DE] 1,076
17 Cypress Creek Renewables [US] 975
18 Sempra Energy [US] 941
19 GCL-Poly Energy Holdings [HK] 910

“Leading Chinese and US utilities like SPIC and NextEra have been prominent for some years” says Wiki-Solar founder Philip Wolfe, “while dynamic growth in India has brought utilities like Adani and NTPC into the list. The top European utilities have held position by investing overseas; notably for Enel in South and Central America, and for EDF in Asia and America.” Last year’s acquisition by BP of a stake in Lightsource may herald renewed interest by other oil companies in a burgeoning solar market.

Independent power producers (IPPs) hold a relatively lower share, now the utilities are more active, but are still building significant portfolios. Infrastructure funds like GIP and Berkshire Hathaway in the US are prominent. Leading specialist solar investors are Panda Green Energy (formerly GoldPoly), Acme, Enerparc and Cypress Creek Renewables.

Some of these top owners develop their own projects, but many also buy projects from specialist developers. The top project developers not also listed as major plant owners are:

Rank Project developers © wiki-solar.org Capacity MWac
1 First Solar [US] 4,414
3 SunEdison [US] (in insolvency) 3,053
9 Shunfeng [CN] 1,588
10 SunPower Corporation [US] 1,514
14 BrightSource Energy [US] 1,220
15 Abengoa Solar [ES] 1,179
17 JinkoSolar [CN] 1,139
18 Hareon Solar [CN] 1,074
22 juwi AG [DE] 951
25 Bharat Heavy Electricals [IN] 883
27 FRV [NL] 806
28 8minutenergy [US] 797
33 Strata Solar [US] 701
35 Neoen [FR] 677

In addition to specialist developers like FRV, juwi, 8minutenergy and the late SunEdison; leading solar equipment producers have been active in developing projects to utilise their products.

Wiki-Solar points out that the contributions of some participants, both on and off these lists, may be understated, because it holds full participant data for only about 30% of projects. “Several leading players keep us informed about their contributions”, says Wolfe, “but the involvement of others may be substantially understated.” It should be noted that these lists total only projects of 4MWAC and above that had been commissioned by the end of 2018.

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Philip Wolfe 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 appointed Director General of the Renewable Energy Association from 2003 to 2009. His book on utility-scale solar was published in 2012.

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