Mature renewable energies: our great leap forwards

By ENGIE - 30 December 2020 - 16:00

What an achievement! In 10 years, between 2010 and mid-2020, ENGIE’s installed renewable capacity has more than doubled, from 13 GW to 27.5 GW, not to mention the further 5.5 GW currently under construction. ENGIE has turned mature renewable energy sources into the driving force of the energy transition with its robust business models and innovative funding solutions, technologies that are constantly challenged, continuous R&D and the industrialisation of facilities.


Solar power: increasingly innovative technologies

Wagering on innovation is the key precondition to speeding up the deployment of mature renewable energies. Ever more powerful and efficient systems, capable of optimising the use of their energy supplies, are necessary in order to produce more power. ENGIE invests more in solar photovoltaic (PV) energy than any other technology. More power can be produced with double-sided panels that capture twice as much energy, or panels mounted on trackers that follow the sun. Like the Tamaya and Capricornio solar parks in Chile to be commissioned in 2021, where 551,000 photovoltaic solar panels will occupy the equivalent of 380 football pitches with a total capacity of 200MW. Along with a wind farm, these two facilities will ultimately supply the first third of the GW of renewable electricity that ENGIE has promised to produce in Chile. Concentrated solar-thermal power (CSP) is another technology used by ENGIE, in particular in Kathu, South Africa, where the Group has built a 4.5 km² solar farm with a capacity of 100 MW. 


Did you know?

The efficiency of photovoltaic cells has doubled over the last 20 years!


Wind power is dashing for innovation...

The power of wind turbines can be increased and the productivity of wind farms can be optimised with ever taller masts and ever longer blades.  ENGIE is speeding up its progress in wind power by investing on a massive scale in new technologies that boost production capacity and increase the resilience of infrastructure, such as self-deicing blades that enable our wind turbines to function even at extreme temperatures. This quest for resilience covers the entire life cycle of the equipment, right up to its end of life. With the Zebra project, one of our R&D goals consists of developing 100% eco-designed and 100% recyclable blades, thanks to a new resin. 


... and more power too!

Increasingly innovative and resilient wind power infrastructures continue to grow on land and at sea. Whether fixed or floating, offshore wind turbines are at the heart of the ambitions of the Ocean Winds co-enterprise with EDPR. With plans to install 5 to 7 GW of capacity in operation or construction by 2025, this co-enterprise will make us the world leader in the sector. And onshore wind power is booming too. The Campo Largo 2 wind farm in Brazil, which will come on stream in the first half of 2021, will supplement the output of Campo Largo 1, to offer a total capacity of 688 MW.  With their 73.7 metre-long blades and the highest steel mast in the industry, the 4.2 MW Vestas V150 wind turbines installed on these farms are record-breakers too. In North America, the 177 wind turbines on the wind farms in Solomon Forks and East Fork in Kansas already offer a total production capacity of 472 MW that came on stream in 2019 and 2020. 


A competitive business model

Mature renewable energies are also riding high because the capital expenditure they require has dropped spectacularly over the last 10 years. These costs have been slashed by about 82% in solar photovoltaic, 39% in onshore wind power and 29% in offshore wind power*. Today, this reduced capital outlay means that renewable electricity can be produced at a much more competitive price, estimated at about €43 per MWh for solar farms, compared with between €42 and €60 per MWh of nuclear power in France*.  The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) also claims that the photovoltaic capacity that came on stream in 2020 will produce electricity that is cheaper than the power produced by coal, oil or gas-fired power plants. At ENGIE as a leader of the energy transition we support our clients in their decarbonation with different solutions such as the green PPAs (Power Purchase Agreements), which are long-term contracts for the purchase of renewable electricity. We are already the leader in green PPAs in the United States, and we are aiming to become the world leader too!


ENGIE: a key player in hydroelectricity

ENGIE has been an active player in hydroelectricity for more than a century, thanks to its subsidiary Société Hydro-Electrique du Midi (SHEM). The Group is active in this sector in Europe, but also in Brazil, Peru and Chile in South America. In 2020, we further increased our production capacity with the acquisition of the second-largest hydroelectric business in Portugal, with a production capacity of 1.7 GW.


ENGIE’s key figures on 30 June 2020

  • 27.5 GW of installed renewable capacity, of which 97% hydroelectricity, wind power and solar power
  • 5.5 GW under construction
  • More than 9 GW of additional renewable capacity delivered between 2019 and 2021
  • The top producer of onshore wind power in France
  • The top producer of solar power in France
  • The second producer of hydro power in France



How digital technology is speeding up the development of mature renewables

The latest generation of solar and wind power infrastructures also benefits from innovations in digital technology, and in data in particular.

Data is a genuine decision-support tool that is very useful in overcoming the intermittent availability of these energy sources.  In the preliminary phases, when choosing the location of a site on the basis of topographical and meteorological data. And in the operational phase, by aligning the output of electricity with demand, market prices and storage capacity. 

>> View the complete video of “Réveil digital”, a round table on this subject, organised with our partners and ZDNet


The effective use of data also makes it easier to maintain our equipment and to optimise the operational efficiency of our facilities.  We can use the DARWIN software, developed by ENGIE Digital, to collect, and store in the cloud, the data from 500 renewable power plants in 23 countries. Our renewable energies control centre (CCE) uses this application to operate and protect the safety of a total of more than 18 connected GW.

The blockchain is also playing a role in the development of mature renewable energies. TEO, which stands for The Energy Origin, is a start-up that develops energy traceability solutions. As a partner of ENGIE, TEO can transparently identify who is consuming what and guarantee the renewable origin of the energy consumed. A critically important capability, as certain energy sourcing strategies shift towards the demand for continuous 100% renewable energy. 


*Source: The production cost of renewable energies in 2019, IRENA