Investing in innovation leads to renewable success
As of this year, the Global Trends in Renewable Energy report found a new record for renewable power capacity at a lower cost than ever before. The report also stated that investment in clean energy capacity doubled that of fossil fuel generation. In short, alternative power sources are being taken far more seriously and are clearly competitive with traditional oil and gas. The continued expansion of clean energy relies on the success of renewable energy firms and the willingness of investors to back them. We’ve all heard of SolarCity (now the largest solar provider in the U.S. ), but which other companies are disrupting the energy sector, and how?
1. Vestas Wind Systems
Vestas Wind Systems are a legacy renewable energy firm which began producing wind turbines in 1979. The company is based in Denmark, which is one of the most committed and ambitious countries in terms of renewable adoption. It’s not surprising, then, that Vestas Wind Systems owns the biggest global share of wind turbines and, as of 2013, is the biggest wind turbine business in the world. As well as selling and installing entire power plants and individual wind turbines, they also provide turbine servicing. According to the company, Vestas is the only global firm dedicated entirely to wind energy and currently employs over 21,000 people.
2. First Solar, Inc.
First Solar does exactly what it says on the tin, and provides solar energy for utilities and power companies. The business is based in the U.S., but operates internationally. As well as an energy provider, First Solar offers engineering, construction and other services to clients. By creating low cost solar converters, First Solar has improved the efficiency of producing electricity. They claim to have the lowest carbon footprint, lowest water usage and fastest energy payback of any light conversion technology. And as if that wasn’t impressive enough, they plan to expand threefold.
3. ABB Ltd.
Based in Switzerland, ABB Ltd. is an electrical engineering firm that specialises in connecting alternative energy sources to the grid. The company provides solar conversion, wind conversion and quick-charge electric vehicle systems, as well as acting as a one-stop for installation and maintenance requirements. They also offer IoT solutions for remote plant management, representing structural disruption in the energy sector. Their clients include railroads, utilities, industrial plants and transportation companies in 100 countries worldwide.
4. Covanta Energy
Covanta converts waste into energy, provides waste management systems and offers consultancy services. Using waste as fuel might not sound as glamourous as other alternative energy options, but it maximises the potential of materials which are constantly and universally available. Covanta operates across 50 global facilities which process around 20 million tonnes of waste per year. The company gets extra points for generating more resources by selling the metal which is a byproduct of the conversion process.
5. Hannon Armstrong
Instead of actually converting or supplying alternative energy, Hannon Armstrong invests in sustainable power development by providing debt and equity financing. The organisation has offered renewable energy financing for 25 years, and in 2013 became a real estate investment trust (REIT) in order to serve the growing market. Their chosen projects are usually set up by U.S. federal, state and local governments, Global 1000 corporations and private developers. Renewable investors like Hannon Armstrong are instrumental in supporting disruption in energy.
Each of these companies are in the process of making alternative energy mainstream, and they are just a handful of examples. As well as simply providing clean energy, they support its successful growth by offering additional services and advice. The existence of investment firms like Hannon Armstrong is a clear indicator that the investment needed for expansion is available, and will accelerate adoption. When it comes to sustainability, this can only be positive. For example, the switch to renewables is one of the main reasons that greenhouse gas emissions stayed flat in 2016. The cost of renewable energy is falling, whereas traditional finite energy sources are becoming more expensive. This economic shift, as well as a gradual acceptance that renewables are necessary for a sustained future, can no longer be ignored.