The 10 biggest clean energy developments of 2013

16 July 2014 (Last Updated July 29th, 2020 22:48)

The year 2013 witnessed some significant milestones in renewable power generation and transmission, inculding the opening of some of the world’s biggest wind, solar and bio-gasification plants. Power-technology.com picks the ten biggest clean energy developments from 2013.

The 10 biggest clean energy developments of 2013

London Array offshore wind farm

London Array opens - the world's biggest offshore wind farm

The London Array, the world's biggest offshore wind farm, at 630MW installed capacity was opened in July 2013. Clean energy generated by the wind farm offsets 900,000t of carbon dioxide emissions a year and is enough to power 470,000 homes in Kent.

The offshore wind farm is spread over 100km² in the outer Thames Estuary, UK and was developed by a consortium of Masdar, E.ON and DONG Energy. Comprising of 175 Siemens 3.6MW turbines, 450km of cabling, an onshore substation and two offshore substations, is the array is operated and maintained from a base at Ramsgate Port.

Commercial operations begin at Ivanpah, the world's biggest solar thermal power plant

Ivanpah, the world's biggest solar thermal power plant, with 377MW net generating capacity, achieved commercial operation in December 2013. Spread over 3,471 acres of public land at Ivanpah Dry Lake in Mojave Desert, California in the US, the Ivanpah solar power station utilises BrightSource Energy's Luz Power Tower technology (LPT) with 347,000 sun-tracking mirrors to concentrate solar heat at boilers sitting atop three 450ft tall towers.

The water in the boilers is converted into high-temperature steam, which drives a conventional turbine for electricity generation. The renewable power generated by the plant serves more than 140,000 homes while curbing carbon emissions by more than 400,000t a year.

The power plant was developed by BrightSource Energy and is jointly owned by NRG Energy, BrightSource Energy and Google. Bechtel was the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contractor for the $2.2bn project.

Greater Gabbard offshore wind farm

Opening of Greater Gabbard, the world's second biggest offshore wind farm

Greater Gabbard, the world's second biggest offshore wind farm at 500MW installed capacity, located 25km off the coast of Suffolk, in North Sea, UK, was officially opened in August 2013. The offshore wind project built with a cost of £1.6bn ($2.7bn) is jointly owned by Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) and RWE npower (RWE).

Greater Gabbard consists of 140 Siemens wind turbines rated at 3.6MW each and generates enough clean electricity to power around 530,000 homes per year. The wind farm is operated and maintained from an onshore base in Lowestoft.

Commissioning of California Valley Solar Ranch, the world's third biggest solar power plant

The 250MW California Valley Solar Ranch PV generating facility in San Luis Obispo County, California, began full-scale commercial operation in October 2013. The solar project was developed by SunPower and is jointly owned by NRG Energy and NRG Yield.

The plant comprises of nine solar photovoltaic arrays spread over 1,500 acres of land and its power output is sold to Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) under a 25-year power purchase agreement.

Vaasa bio-gasification plant

Inauguration of the world's biggest bio-gasification power plant, Vaasa

Vaskiluodon Voima, a heat and power generating company based in Finland, inaugurated the world's biggest bio-gasification power plant with 140MW installed capacity in Vaasa, Finland, in March 2013. Construction of the €40m ($52m) Vaasa bio-gasification plant, which produces biogas mainly from forest residue, started in April 2012.

The bio-gasification plant consisting of a fuel handling system, a large-scale dryer, and a circulating fluidised bed gasifier, was supplied by Metso, and is a part of Vaskiluodon Voima's existing 565MW Vaskiluoto 2 coal-fired plant. Gas produced from the new plant is combusted along with coal in the existing coal boiler replacing 25% to 40% of coal used for electricity production.

Commissioning of the world's longest HVDC power transmission line

The Rio Madeira high-voltage direct current (HDVC) transmission link, the world's longest power transmission line with an overhead length of 2,375km, was commissioned in Brazil in November 2013. The 600kV bipolar line exports electricity from the Santo Antônio and Jirau hydropower plants on the banks of the Madeira River in north-west Brazil to major load centres in south-eastern Brazil and is capable of transmitting 7.1GW of power with minimal loss.

The HDVC line developed by Interligação Elétrica do Madeira (IE Madeira), a consortium of three major Brazilian energy providers, took 24 months for completion. ABB provided two 3,150MW HVDC converter stations, and an 800-MW HVDC back to back station for the transmission project.

Offshore converter station

Installation of the highest-voltage offshore converter station in the North Sea

ABB installed a 320kV converter station, the world's highest-voltage offshore converter station, in the North Sea in August 2013. the station converts alternating current (AC) power generated from three wind farms off the coast of Germany, including the 400 MW Borkum West II wind farm, into HVDC for transmission to the German National Grid. The 800MW station, known as Dolwin alpha, is also the world's most powerful offshore HVDC converter station.

TenneT, a leading European transmission system operator, had awarded ABB the turnkey contract for the offshore wind connection project which involved an offshore converter station, a 75km long DC undersea cable, a 90km long land cable system, and an onshore converter station.

Creation of a 20MW test bench in the wind segment

Danish wind turbines manufacturer Vestas started operating a 20MW test bench, the biggest in the wind power industry, at its global testing centre in Aarhus, Denmark, in August 2013.

The test bench, measuring 42m long and 9m wide, weighs nearly 700t including the motors, wind simulator and generators. It can test the full nacelle of the V164-8.0 MW, the fourth biggest wind turbine in the world, the prototype for which was completed in December 2013. The test bench can validate the performance of the wind turbine over a simulated 25-year lifetime.

Wind turbine test bench

World's first full-scale smart grid system brought into operation

Florida Power & Light started operating the world's first full-scale smart grid system in Florida, USA, in May 2013.The $800m smart grid project using thousands of sensors at key points in the grid such as substations, transformers, local distribution lines and high voltage transmission lines.

It can handle big storms and intermittent renewable energy while shortening power outages and ensuring flexibility and resilience in the grid system.

World's highest capacity HVDC Light underwater power link commissioned

ABB commissioned a 500MW underwater HVDC Light interconnection between Ireland and the UK in August 2013. Based on voltage source converter (VSC) technology, it is the highest capacity transmission link of its kind to enter commercial operation.

The 500MW HVDC interconnector comprised of a 62km long cable system connects Woodland in County Meath, Ireland and Deeside in North Wales, UK. The new link facilitates power flow between the two countries and helps integrating the surplus Irish wind power to the European grid via long distance under water transmission.

NRI Energy Technology