Nuclear crisis energizes grid, wind power efforts

Updated: 2011-04-12 08:00

By Liu Yiyu (China Daily)

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Nuclear crisis energizes grid, wind power efforts

A view of the power grid in Yichang, Hubei province. China plans to complete the basic construction of its smart grid by 2015, the State Grid Corp of China said in March. Liu Junfeng / For China Daily

BEIJING - China is stepping up construction of its electric grid infrastructure, an important move amid the international doubts about the safety of the nuclear industry following the crisis in Japan.

Though it leads the world in installed wind-power capacity, the nation faces a growing problem with grid integration. More than half of the electricity generated by wind farms ended up unused last year, according to a report by the State Electricity Regulatory Commission.

The nation plans to complete the basic construction of its smart grid by 2015, when it will be able to connect 10 gigawatts (gW) of wind power to the system, the State Grid Corp of China, the country's largest power distributor, said in March.

Meanwhile, the government is expected to release new national standards for wind-power integration at the end of April, the China Securities Journal reported. The new standards, replacing those released in 2009, will place an emphasis on the stability and predictability of wind technology, adding to the operating costs of wind farms.

As of 2010, the State Grid has invested 41.8 billion yuan ($6.39 billion) to support the integration of wind power, according to Wang Yimin, director of the smart grid department of the company. Wang added that integrated wind power generated 2.8 gW in State Grid's network last year.

Connected wind-power capacity accounted for only 3.2 percent of the country's total power generation capacity in 2010, while the installed wind capacity stood at 4.4 percent, said Dai Huizhu, senior consultant of the China Electricity Power Research Institute.

Although in some windy regions, such as Northeast China, wind-generated electricity accounted for 12 percent of the total, grid integration remains an issue preventing the clean-energy source from making a bigger contribution.

In Liaoning province alone, a total of 760,000 kilowatts (kW) from wind turbines was wasted last year because the grid system lags behind wind-power installation.

China hopes to get 15 percent of its energy from non-fossil fuels by 2020 and wind power is expected to contribute 15 gW.

The smart grid will be a long-term solution to wind-power integration, but experts still disagree about details, such as methods of energy storage.

Meanwhile, equipment manufacturers are searching for solutions from power generation. "Smart generation is what we are looking for," said Patrick Zhao, director of Vestas' plant power system.

Vestas Wind Systems A/S, the world's largest wind-turbine manufacturer by market share, is working on increasing the efficiency of wind-power generation.

Technology developed by Vestas was installed at a wind farm operated by China Datang Corp in Chifeng county in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, and helped increase the stability and efficiency of power generation.

"The current nuclear crisis in Japan helped the wind power industry in the sense that people switched their focus to safer power-generation technology," said Zhao. "But a crisis will not help the industry indefinitely unless wind power becomes a reliable energy source."

China Daily


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