Solar, Utility Scale

Latest ranking of global solar developers shows growing utility involvement in the sector

Utility companies are strengthening their hold on the large-scale solar business according to the latest ranking published by Wiki-Solar. Five of the top 9 project developers – and nine of the top-12 plant owners – are mainstream energy companies.

This list of the top project developers, based on cumulative capacity, shows their overall position and where they rank according to new capacity commissioned since the beginning of 2018.

Top utility-scale solar project developers with at least 900 MW cumulative commissioned capacity. Credit: Wiki-solar.

Top of the table for recent installations is ENEL Green Power, the renewables arm of Italian energy conglomerate ENEL, thanks in particular to new projects commissioned in South and Central America. In second and third places are NextEra Energy, owners of Florida Power and Light, and the renewables division of energy giant China Three Gorges Corporation. Another prominent riser is the French energy multinational Engie (formerly GDF Suez). Naturally these utility companies tend to retain ownership of most of the renewable projects they develop.

Most other companies on the list are traditional developers, who sell the projects when they are built; or independent power producers, who own and operate renewable energy portfolios.

Of the six solar manufacturers on the list, First Solar is tending to scale back its downstream activities, but the others – most notably Canadian Solar through its Recurrent Energy subsidiary – use new project development as a market for their output. The former developer SunEdison remains on the list as other companies complete the projects it initiated before its collapse.

Top utility-scale plant owners with at least 750 MW of operating capacity. Credit: Wiki-solar.

India’s Acme Solar is amongst the highest climbers in the owner’s list thanks to its new develop­ments in 2018/19. Similarly, international IPP’s such as Scatec Solar, Enerparc and Neoen are progressing thanks to their project development activities.

While most of the leading plant owners also develop projects, a few acquire most of their capacity from others. This applies, for example to US-based Global Infrastructure Partners, now at number 3 in the list and the UK’s Actis, a major climber to number 22.

Wiki-Solar’s lists are built from the bottom up – totaling the capacity of utility-scale solar projects on its database. Founder Philip Wolfe points out that “this means the contributions of some – both on and off the list – are understated, because not all partners in all projects are known, though many leading companies keep us informed.”

It should be noted that these lists total only commissioned projects for which the companies acted as project developers or owners. Many of those listed also act as EPC contractors or in other roles and may be responsible for more overall capacity than is shown here.

The intricacies of solar project development will be discussed at POWERGEN International, set to hit New Orleans, November 19-21. Register today!