The most efficient renewable energy power stations


Mankind has always had to keep facing new challenges. Today it is climate change. Scientists are tirelessly researching to help our earth and what is emerging is in some cases unimaginable. That's why we went in search of the five most exciting projects in the fields of solar power, hydropower, wind power, biomass and geothermal power. Discover our Big Five most amazing renewable energy projects.

1. The Noor solar power plant in the desert of Morocco

The Noor 1 plant in Ouarzazate, Morocco, with its numerous mirrors. (Copyright Masen)

The world’s hitherto largest solar thermal plant, Ivanpah – with some 300,000 mirrors – stands in the desert of Arizona, USA. There it provides 140,000 homes with energy and covers an area of ten square kilometres. But very soon the photovoltaic plant will be toppled from its throne by a Moroccan complex of superlatives. The roughly 30 square kilometre solar power plant in Ouarzazate is to take over the supply of electricity for 350,000 people when it is completed at the end of 2018. The power plant complex consists of four different sections. Construction of Noor 1 began in 2016 and it can already generate 160 megawatts (MW) of electricity. 537,000 mirrors capture the sunlight and heat liquids stored in pipes. The steam that is produced drives turbines that ultimately generate the electricity. On completion of the last power plant section in 2018, Morocco’s annual CO2 emissions can be reduced by some 888,600 tonnes.

2. Three Gorges Dam

Three Gorges Dam
Huge water masses form the reservoir of the Three Gorges Dam in China. (Copyright Jejim / Shutterstock)

The Three Gorges Dam – the world’s largest hydroelectric power station – is situated in the south-east of China, in the province of Hubei. According to the 2016 report by the World Energy Council, hydropower generated 16.4 % of the world’s energy from all sources and China is by far the forerunner in this field. The country converts water into as much energy as could be produced from 96.6 million tonnes of oil. The dam is 2,309 metres long and with a height of 185 metres is even taller than Cologne cathedral. The water is supplied by the Yangtze river, the longest river in Asia, and, after the Nile and the Amazon, the third-largest river in the world. Water stored in lakes plummets 185 metres into the deep before driving 32 turbines at the foot of the wall. These turbines generate as much energy as 15 nuclear power stations. The operator, China Three Gorges Corporation, is already planning the next project, which is to generate nearly twice as much electricity and heat.

3. The biggest wind turbine in the world

wind power plant
Construction of the world’s biggest wind turbine. A 3,000 tonne revolving tower crane puts the tower together piece by piece until finally the 13-metre high and 5-metre long gondola is mounted at a height of 115 metres. (Copyright Adwen)

When it comes to wind energy, the Germans can have their say, too as the world’s biggest wind turbine is located in the north of Germany, in Bremerhaven to be precise. The gondola, to which the three rotor blades are attached, is mounted at a height of 115 metres. Each of the gigantic rotor blades is 88 metres long and extends the height of the wind turbine to 203 metres when a rotor blade points up to the sky. This makes the wind turbine 40 metres higher than the Pyramid of Cheops, which as part of the Pyramids of Giza is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The powerful wind power plant has a nominal capacity of 8 MW and the design has already been chosen for further projects. On the French coast, several of its kind are to generate some 1.5 gigawatts (GW), what is equal to 1.500 MW, through wind energy. By comparison: The power of one MW could theoretically provide 570 households with energy.


4. Biomass as an energy source – the Enea Power Plant

The Enea power plant
The Enea biomass power plant in Połaniec at night (Copyright Enea S.A)

The biomass power station, the Enea Power Plant, one of the largest of its kind with a capacity of 200 MW, stands in Połaniec in Poland. In order to generate energy, it burns biomass. This is done by harnessing the sun’s energy that is stored in the organic substance produced by plants, animals and even people. In Połaniec it is mainly wood chips and agricultural waste that are used as fuel to heat water that then drives the power-generating turbine. One advantage is that agricultural biomass can be produced much more quickly than wood. According to Jarosław Mlonka, CEO of the former operator, Foster Wheeler Energia Polska, it was a problem to develop a suitable boiler that generates enough heat despite the low combustion temperature of the material. The biomass power plant was built by converting an old coal-fired power station at a cost of some 290 million US dollars. The plant is now operated by Enea SA.

5. Harnessing geothermal energy – Iceland’s Hellisheidarvirkjun

Geothermie on iceland
The Hellisheidarvirkjun geothermal power plant on Iceland permits efficient use of geothermal energy. (Copyright Arni Saeberg)

The most efficient geothermal power station in the world is located in Iceland. Geothermal energy is also ideal for use in power and heat generation. According to scientists’ estimates, temperatures of up to 6,000° Celsius prevail in the earth’s core. However, normally it requires considerable effort to harness geothermal energy efficiently. Certain regions are more suitable than others. Due to the fact that the North American and Eurasian plates are drifting apart, Iceland has high volcanic activity. So magma, hot water and steam lying in the depths can make their way to the earth’s surface. “Hellisheidarvirkjun”, one the largest geothermal power stations in the world, delivers 400 megawatts of energy and meanwhile provides 95 % of Iceland’s population with electricity. At 725 megawatts, the geothermal power plant called The Geyser and situated north of San Francisco has nearly double the capacity but the Icelandic plant is still No. 1 because geothermal energy can be used so efficiently on the island that even greenhouses and some streets in Reykjavik can be heated by the power of geothermal energy.


A green future

If more of such power stations were built and went on stream, greenhouse gas emissions could be greatly reduced. Even though one of US President Donald Trump’s arguments for justifying his withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement is that too many jobs would be lost in industry, many alternative possibilities are opening up in the field of renewable energies. And as the saying goes: everybody can make their contribution. By using geothermal heat pumps and solar cells, we can combat climate change and global warming and help our planet.