Embarrassments of China's Wind Power
Lihui Xu, Jochen Alleyne
According to preliminary statistics, China’s wind power installed capacity in 2011 is nearly 20.20 Gigawatt (GW). Between 2005 and 2011, the total wind power installed capacity increased by 1.26 GW to reach 62 GW at the end of 2011. The capacity is doubled to almost 50 times within 5 years and is more than one fourth of the global wind capacity.
Figure 1: Wind Power Installed Capacity in China, 2002-2011
(Source: SGT Research)
In 2010, China became the largest wind energy provider worldwidewith the installed wind power capacity reaching 41.8 GW at the end of 2010 (see figure 1).
However, there was only 70% of the country's total wind power capacity connected to the grid by 2011. 
China’s wind power industry is embarrassed by the industry boom that has stalled. The embarrassments are caused by the following facts. As long as these do not evolve, the wind power development in China will continue stall.
Lacking of Infrastructure
In recent years, China’s rapid growth of wind power development was far beyond the power grid development scheme. The construction speed of the smart grid is lagging behind of the wind power. Lack of power infrastructure is a key factor in wind power’s difficulty inconnectingto the grid.
China's wind energy resources are mainly concentrated in the "Three North" areas, the Northwest, North China and the Northeast. Most of them are away from the main load centers. In addition, by adopting the development mode of large-scale wind power construction, the bigger the scale of centralizing the supply of wind power, the higher the voltage level of the power access system required. But, most local grid structures are generally weak. For example, in Inner Mongolia, the distance from wind farms to the grid is at least several tens of kilometers, but normally more than two hundred kilometers.
At the end of 2008, China launched six land-based 10 GW wind power bases in northern China and one off shore wind base in coastal Jiangsu province. Most of them have not been completed due to a lack of supporting systems and transmission lines. Jiuquan is one of the first 10 GW wind projects approved by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and is expected to have an installed capacity of 12.71 GW by 2015.
However, the 10 GW wind project in Jiuquan, Gansu Province is among the biggest problems, with the wind farm located too far from the regional load center. This requires major infrastructure upgrades. To overcome this problem, the State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) proposed to build “Three Chinese Synchronized Power Grid” as a medium and long term solution for wind power and other renewable energy sources connecting to the grid. The solution provides a network through ultra high voltage (UHV) transmission lines to synchronize the grids of North China, the East China and the Central China, and then to form an UHV Synchronized Grid.
By 2020, China will build eight ± 800 kV DC and 1000 kV AC transmission lines in order to achieve satisfactory wind energy transportation and consumption within different districts.
Abandoning Wind Power
Due to the intermittency of wind, the utilities do not allow the wind power to connect to the grid. They take the wind energy as a pollutant because of its instability and believe that wind power will affect the safety of the power grid. Furthermore, the capacity of the transmission line is limited, not all of the wind power can be transmitted whenever a wind farm is built. Therefore, abandoning wind power is becoming a critical factor which is constraining China’s wind power development.
According to China Wind Energy Development Roadmap 2050,  from January to June 2010, 2.76 Tera Watts hour (TWh) of wind electricity were curtailed, of which 1.58 TWh were from north China and 1.06 TWh from northeastern China. This represents a disproportionately high level of curtailment: the northern region accounts for 42% of Chinese wind electricity production but 57.2% of curtailment, while the northeast produces 31% of national production and sees 38% of curtailment.
Yumen City known as "Three Gorges of Wind Power”, is located in the northwest of Gansu Province, one of China’s wind-rich provinces. Take its Datang Changma First Wind Farm as an example. From April to August 2011, the wind power abandoned respectively 13.98 million kWh, 16.92 million kWh, 6.93 million kWh, 7.71 million kWh and 900,000 kWh of electricity, for a total curtailment of 46.45 million kWh of electricity, accounting for 43% of this five-month full-load generating capacity. In other words, 43% generating capacity of the wind farm is abandoned. Almost half of the wind turbines are idle. 
On February 29, 2012, National Energy Administration urgently issued “Wind Power Forecasting and Gird Coordinated Operation Implementing Regulations (Trial)”, and pointed out that the grid operator should fully utilize the wind power prediction results, comprehensively consider the system loading forecasting in order to combine with the grid and wind farm operating conditions to ensure that the maximum amount of wind power is consumed.
LVRT Incabability of Wind Turbine
Before 2011, the wind power industry complained that the utilities were not willing to accept wind power to connecting to the grid. But, a series of wind turbines accidents in 2011 indicates that there are other technical problems for wind turbines.
On February 24, 2011, 598 wind turbines were disconnected from the power grid in Gansu’s city of Jiuquan and resulted in electricity output loss of 840.43 MW;
On April, 17, 2011, 702 wind turbines were disconnected from the power grid in Gansu’s city of Jiuquan and resulted in electricity output loss of 1006.223 MW;
On the same day, 644 wind turbines were disconnected from the power grid in Hebei’s city of Zhangjiakou and resulted in electricity output loss of 854 MW;
On April, 25, 2011, another large grid disconnection accident involving 1278 wind turbines happened in Jiuquan, Guansu Province.
After State Electricity Regulatory Commission (SERC) inspected wind farm safety management, operations, and grid connections, as well as wind turbines, the SERC blamed the absence of Low Voltage Ride Through (LVRT) systems in the facilities as the primary cause for these failures. LVRT systems allow wind turbines to continue operating during and after voltage dips so the grid can adjust more quickly, which improves overall grid safety and stability.
“70% of wind turbine does not have LVRT capability in Jiuquan, Gansu”, Jiuquan Energy Secretary Shengxue Wu said.
In late November, 2011, a LVRT renovation project bidding started at Tongliao Zhalute wind farm, which is owned by Datang Corporation Renewable Power Co., Ltd. This renovation project is to meet the relevant requirements of a new national standard of “Wind Farm Connecting Power Systems Technical Regulations”, which will imminently be implemented on June 1, 2012.
New National Standards
Though China has the world's fastest-developing wind power sector and the largest installed wind capacity worldwide, it still lacks a national standard on wind power grid integration. Fortunately some new national standards, which are being jointly drafted by the National Energy Administration, SERC and SGCC, are expected to establish fundamental rules for the wind power industry, requiring that all turbines be equipped with LVRT systems to ensure grid stability.
On December 30, 2011, the National Standards Committee formally approved the release of “Wind Farm Connecting Power Systems Technical Regulations”, which will be formally implemented on June 1, 2012.
The “Wind Farm Connecting Power Systems Technical Regulations” is the fundamental standard for wind power integration to the grid. It includes standards on power grid dispatching, wind power farms, wind turbine quality, etc. On many levels it will restrict and control wind power grid integration.
This technical regulations, along with another standard of “Large-scale Wind Farm Connecting Grid Design Technical Specifications", will effectively address the frequent wind power accidents and ultimately enhance the quality and efficiency of the wind power industry.
China Wind Energy Development Roadmap 2050
China is already looking past the above mentioned quandaries.
According to a recently issued roadmap drawn up for the country’s wind power industry - “China Wind Energy Development Roadmap 2050”, China’s wind power capacity will reach 200 GW, 400 GW and 1,000 GW by 2020, 2030 and 2050, respectively, making wind one of the five major sources of electricity across the country.
Based on this target, by 2050 China’s investment in the wind power sector is expected to reach RMB 12 trillion (approx. US$1.9 trillion), opening the door to many opportunities for its wind power equipment manufacturers.
About SGT Research
SGT Research is a global market research and advisory firm serving the smart grid industry value chain including electric power infrastructure, renewable energy, clean technologies and capital investment. SGT Research provides strategic consulting services including analysis of market drivers, business models and technology trends for smart grid development. SGT Research also provides market entry services for smart grid firms seeking opportunities in China. With SGT Research’s local and international experience, clients will have added competitive advantages of bringing high-value products and services to the Chinese market faster.
SGT Research Insights.
- March 01, 2013
- February 20, 2013
- February 11, 2013
- January 25, 2013
- United Energy Capital Program