CWEA predicts China wind power slowdown

LVRT refers to the capacity of wind turbines to maintain continuous operation during and after precipitous voltage dips. LVRT-capable wind turbines allow the power grid to be adjusted more quickly and improve the overall safety and stability of the grid. Dai Huizhu, a professor with CEPRI, cited an incident that occurred in February this year in which 598 wind turbines were disconnected from the grid during voltage dips in Jiuquan.

Wang Ningbo, director of the wind energy technology center of the Gansu Provincial Power Company, said, "technically, a large-scale disconnection with the grid will happen sooner or later. Although we made explicit technical requirements for the wind turbines at the Jiuquan wind power base when it was being built, most wind turbines simply do not have the LVRT function."

Wang said that the State Electricity Regulatory Commission (SERC) has created new requirements which will speed up the upgrading process for China’s wind turbines, forcing them to have LVRT capacity installed. However, no timetable for the upgrades has been established yet.

So far, only a few Chinese wind turbine makers have passed international standards for LVRT tests. Sino-German joint venture Guangxi Yinhe Avantis Wind Power Co., Ltd (GYAW) and Goldwind, China’s second-largest wind turbine manufacturer, are two companies that have passed the tests.

In March 2010, the National Energy Bureau (NEB) announced it had established a technical committee for wind energy industry standardization, and has started working on a series of wind power industry standards.

Currently, several documents and sets of standards have been submitted to the central government for examination.

"Compared with the current Technical Rules for Connecting Wind Farm to the Power System of the State Grid Corporation of China, the new national standard concerning the LVRT tests will be more strict," said Amanda Yang, an engineer with GYAW.

To upgrade the thousands of wind turbines currently operating that don’t have LVRT capability, a large amount of money will be needed. The total cost for upgrading these turbines adds up to 1 percent of the total value of the turbines.

The Chinese Government believes that wind energy will play an increasingly important role in fulfilling its December 2009 pledge at the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit. China pledged that by 2020, 15 percent of its energy consumption will be accounted for by non-fossil fuels.

China has rich wind power resources, with potential development capacity both onshore and off, according to the China Meteorological Administration. This will make it possible for China to increase the development of its wind power industry.

The NEB announced in January that this year, China will strive to achieve a total of 55 gigawatts of wind power capacity.

He Dexin, President of the China Wind Energy (OOTC:CWEY) Association, said China’s wind power capacity will reach 150 to 200 gigawatts by 2020, which means China will add about 12 to 15 gigawatts of capacity each year until then.

However, Shi still warns people to be reasonable in their expectations for China’s wind power industry.

"Considering the present energy mix, wind power will only add brilliance to the present splendor, rather than dominate the scene," said Shi. In 2010, coal accounted for 67.6 percent of the country’s power, about 30 percent higher than the world average. Wind power accounted for just 3.2 percent of China’s electricity.

Shi estimated that in 2020, coal will continue to provide about 67 percent of China’s energy, while wind energy provide about 8.7 percent. "Contributing positively to climate change and realizing the 2020 pledge will be the main theme behind China’s wind power development over the next decade."

"With this in mind," Shi said, "China must look at the cost of developing wind power as a guiding line. For instance, it must compare the actual cost of offshore wind power development with the cost of sending wind power from western regions to eastern ones. If it costs less to send wind power from Gansu and Xinjiang to the eastern coastal areas, China should give priority to developing wind energy resources in these areas," said Shi.