10 Major Renewable Energy Projects To Watch In 2021

Renewable energy is considered to be the fastest growing sector globally, with more renewable energy projects receiving funding than ever before. As the need for clean, sustainable energy increases, and renewable technologies get ever more advanced, more and more projects are being developed in greater sizes and complexities, bringing with them a huge demand for skilled renewable energy engineers.

2021 is expected to see the renewable energy sector continue its strong growth, with many new projects expected to come online or begin construction – along with many innovative plans due to be launched. With that in mind, we’ve assembled this list of the biggest and most valuable renewable energy projects that engineers should be watching in 2021.

For purposes of this list we have organised our selections based on the financial cost of the project and we’re primarily looking at projects that are expected to see major updates in 2021. For example – we have omitted projects such as China’s $26.5 billion Baihetan Hydropower Station, since construction has been continuing steadily since 2017 and is not expected to see any major updates until it starts up in 2022. We’ve also tried to cover a range of project types to include the varying forms of renewable energy including solar, wind and hydroelectric.

Here are NES Fircroft’s 10 major renewable energy projects to watch in 2021:

1. Wudongde Hydropower Station, China

Project type: Hydroelectric | Cost: $15.4 billion

Based on the Jinsha River – a tributary of the Yangtze River – running through the Sichuan and Yunnan provinces of southwest China, the Wudongde Hydropower station has been under construction since 2015 and began producing power from the first batch of generator sets in June 2020. The completed dam is scheduled to be fully operational by December 2021.

  • Topping out at 240 metres (787 feet) the dam is one of the tallest in the world, and has also been labelled as the “smartest” mega hydropower station in the world. It is the first to fully use low heat cement and is being built with real-time temperature monitoring and intelligent grouting equipment. Cooling pipes in the concrete detect the temperature and adjust the flow of water automatically to cool the concrete intelligently.
  • Low heat cement can withstand large temperature differences which will prevent cracking, making the dam safer.
  • The double-curved arch dam sits on a foundation bed only 51 metres thick – making it also the thinnest 300-metre arch dam in the world. It can store up to 7.4 billion cubic metres of water in its reservoir.
  • 12 generating units, featuring turbines supplied by GE and generator units supplied by Voith, will generate 38.9 billion kw of electricity per year. In addition the dam will provide flood control and sediment trapping.
  • According to the developers the dam will offset the use of 12.2 million tons of standard coal and reduce CO2 emissions by 30.5 million tons per year, and sulfur dioxide emissions by 104,000 tons per year.

2. Inga 3, Democratic Republic of Congo

Project type: Hydroelectric | Cost: $14 billion

Originally planned back in 2013, the Inga 3 project was long thought to be over after the World Bank cancelled its involvement after three years of little activity. However, new plans that doubled the capacity proposed by the initial project led to a joint investment deal with China Three Gorges Corporation and Actividades de Construccion y Servicios SA in 2018, reviving the project.

  • In December 2019 the government announced plans to initially develop a hydroelectric dam with a capacity of 4,800MW that can later be expanded to 7,500MW and 11,000MW in the future.
  • The dam is said to be Africa’s largest electricity project. It’s planned to be constructed on the River Congo, near the Inga Falls, approximately 225km south-west of Congo’s capital Kinshasa. Power will be exported across the continent, with Angola committed to buy 5000MW.
  • If financing is agreed upon it is hoped that construction can begin later in the year, with the project set to start up in 2024.

3. Keeyask Hydropower Generating Station, Canada

Project type: Hydroelectric | Cost: $8.7 billion

Based on the Gull Rapids on the Nelson River, the Keeyask Hydropower station began construction in 2014 and is due to be completed this year. The first generator entered commercial operation in February 2021.

  • The low-head dam will use 18 metres of the 27m Gull Rapids drop, and will be built over a section of the river that spans 2km. Due to the width of the dam the seven-unit powerhouse is being built separately from the seven-gate spillway – an unusual layout that requires the structures to be connected by earthen dams that continue to the riverbank and a 23km dike.
  • Approximately 45 square km of land is being flooded at the site of the dam, creating a 93 square km reservoir with an operating level of 139.2m.
  • 370,000 cubic metres of concrete are needed to complete the spillway and powerhouse, for which the materials are all mined on site, along with the rest of the sand, rock and clay required for the construction.
  • The seven year construction period requires 4,500 person years of direct employment. 2,000 construction professionals and support staff have worked on the site, using 237 pieces of equipment and 17 cranes.

4. Hornsea Project 2, UK

Project Type: Offshore Wind | Cost: $7.8 billion

Danish company Ørsted have been developing Hornsea Project 2 since August 2015. It’s intended to be part of the wider Hornsea Zone, located approximately 89km off the coast of East Riding, Yorkshire.

  • 165 turbines are due to be installed in water depths between 30m and 40m, with tip heights of 204m and a nominal power of 8,000kW. Together they will have a total installed capacity of 1,386MW.
  • The farm will connect to the grid at the North Killingholme National Grid transmission station in North Lincolnshire.
  • Onshore cable construction began in 2019, with the windfarm site including installation of the HVAC substation. The project is expected to be completed by 2022.

5. Ghana Wave Power Project, Ghana

Project Type: Wave | Cost: $7.5 billion

Seabased Energy have been contracted by TC Energy to build a wave energy plant with a total capacity of 100 MW off the coast of Ada, Ghana.

  • The project has been planned for several years, with a 1MW pilot phase installed by Swede Energy in May 2015. There are still very few wave technology plants in operation around the world, and this is set to be one of the biggest.
  • The park will use a series of buoys connected to linear generators as wave energy converters (WECs). Power is generated by the motion of the buoys as they move with the waves. A switchgear makes the electricity suitable for grid use.
  • According to Seabased, the 100MW plant could electricity to tens of thousands of Ghanaian homes, sustainably and cleanly. In addition to not producing any emissions, the wave park creates an artificial reef for marine life.
  • Seabed are contracted to design, manufacture and install the plant, which will be operated by TC Energy. It’s hoped that the project will be fully commissioned later in the year.

6. Ulanqab Wind Farm, China

Project Type: Onshore Wind | Cost: $6.2 billion

The world’s biggest onshore wind farm will cover 3,800 square km of North China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The 6GW Ulanqab wind farm is intended to deliver 18.9 billion kWh a year to the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei power market and is said will help power the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

  • Construction began in 2018 by the China State Power Investment Corporation (SPIC) who exclusively contracted domestic firms to carry out the work. Construction takes part in phases that can each generate a capacity of 100MW to 200MW. Each turbine will have an average power generating capacity of 4.16MW.
  • The project is not subsidised by the government, but will take advantage of several measures including 20 year power purchase agreements, a waiver of local content requirements and a guaranteed grid connection. It is expected to begin delivering power later this year.

Considering a job in Wind? Check out some of Asia’s biggest Wind projects and their job prospects.

7. Triton Knoll, UK

Project type: Offshore wind | Cost: $6 billion

Covering a 12 mile area off the Greater Wash area 20 miles of the UK coast of Lincolnshire, the Triton Knoll offshore wind farm project has been ongoing for several years, having originally been planned back in 2003. Following a series of delays, financial close was achieved in August 2018 and in January 2020 it was confirmed that construction has finally begun.

  • The 860MW wind farm will generate power from up to 90 V164 turbines, each of which have an installed capacity of 9.5MW. They will be installed in water depths between 18m and 24m.
  • Five offshore substations will be installed and connected to a newly built onshore grid substation at Mumby.
  • As of January 2020, 90 monopiles and transition pieces have been transported from Rotterdam using Crane vessel Seaway Strashnov. Offshore construction began in January 2020, first power was announced in March 2021, and the halfway point for turbine installation was reached in June 2021. Startup is planned for 2022.

8. Leh and Kargil Solar Power Projects, India

Project type: Solar PV | Cost: $6 billion

Three individual phases make up the 7.5GW solar power projects spread over the Leh and Kargil districts of Jammu and Kashmir. Each phase will have 2,500MW with 5,000MW being developed in the Pang region of Leh and 2,500MW in the Zangla region of Kargil.

The high-altitude Himalayan regions are said to have a huge potential for solar power generation. The planned project will connect to a transmission network extended 850km to Punjab.

“The MNRE (Ministry of New and Renewable Energy) has planned to set up solar power projects with a cumulative capacity of around 14 MW (megawatts) with a battery storage capacity of 42 MWh (megawatt-hour) in Leh and Kargil,” said R K Singh, Minister of State for Power and New & Renewable Energy when announcing the project.

However, the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) notified in January 2021 that the Request for Selection (RfS) issued for the selection of solar power developers for setting the Leh and Kargil projects has been terminated. Still, the project is set for commissioning in 2023.

9. Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum Solar Park Phase IV, Dubai

Project type: Solar CSP | Cost: $4.295 billion

Part of the $13.6 billion, 5,000MW Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum Solar Park based in the desert of Dubai, phase IV will be the first section to use concentrated solar power – with the previous three using miles of photovoltaic panels.

  • Phase IV alone will have a total capacity of 950MW, broken down as 700MW from CSP technology and 250MW from PV.
  • It will feature the world’s tallest molten salt tower plant, standing 260 metres tall and receiving focused sunlight from heliostat mirrors to power steam turbines, generating 100MW of power. In addition, three thermal oil parabolic trough power plants will each contribute 200MW.
  • One 250MW photovoltaic farm will make up the remainder of Phase IV.
  • Construction is ongoing with commissioning expected in stages. Phase IV is due for completion in April 2022, while the overall Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum Solar Park is scheduled to be fully operational as the world’s largest solar park by 2030.

NES Fircroft are proud to partner with MESIA – the Middle East’s premier solar job board, and in partnership with MESIA offer exciting job opportunities for engineering personnel in the solar market.

10. Shek Kwu Chau Energy From Waste, Hong Kong

Project type: Energy from waste | Cost: $4 billion

As one of the most densely populated cities in the world, Hong Kong produces a vast amount of waste, and requires a vast amount of power. The Environment Protection Department (EPD) seeks to solve two problems with one stone through the construction of an integrated waste management facility (IWMF) on a reclaimed island off the coast of Shek Kwu Chau – one of the region’s smaller islands, away from the main metropolitan areas.

  • The site will include a large incinerator that is intended to treat 3,000 tonnes of waste per day at peak operation. It will also include a mechanical treatment plant, an administration building, visitor centre, port handling facilities and desalination and wastewater treatment plants.
  • According to the project leaders the project will produce enough energy to power over 100,000 households in Hong Kong, while reducing the strain on existing landfills. It’s expected to create thousands of jobs through a construction process requiring land reclamation, infrastructure works, building and marine engineering.
August 10, 2021

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