China WindPower taps into solar sector
China WindPower Group, a major wind-farm developer on the mainland, is venturing into the solar power sector in an effort to increase its chances of ensuring power grid connection through so-called 'wind-solar hybrid' projects.
Wind-solar hybrid development is gaining popularity because mainland power grid expansion in the wind and solar energy-rich but remote northern and western regions has lagged behind demand due to a lack of financial incentives for state-owned regional monopoly State Grid Corp of China.
China WindPower chairman Liu Shunxing said the company had signed agreements with local governments in Gansu, Inner Mongolia, Liaoning and Jilin provinces for it to invest in wind-solar power projects. He said the agreements gave the firm exclusive development rights, most of which lasted three to five years.
Wind-solar hybrid plants are more efficient than standalone wind or solar ones because they share infrastructure.
'The other advantage is that their output during the day is greater than during the night, which better suits grid operators as such output matches power user demand better,' Liu said. Solar only produces power during the day while wind farms tend to produce more at night.
Due to lagging grid development, only 62.4 per cent of the nation's 25,800 megawatts of wind capacity was grid-connected at the end of last year. China WindPower fared better, with 83 per cent of the 681 MW installed capacity it owned grid-connected at the end of June this year. It plans to add more than 300 MW this year and 360 MW in each of next year and 2012.
'We will slow down development in areas [like western Inner Mongolia] where grid connection is the most difficult to obtain,' Liu said after China WindPower posted a 113 per cent rise in first-half net profit to HK$133.2 million as more wind farms went into operation.
Revenue leapt 153 per cent to HK$349 million, due mainly to wind tower tube production and wind-farm engineering and construction.
China WindPower is also keen to go into the offshore wind power market by bidding in three out of four projects, involving a total capacity of 1,000 MW. Liu is confident the segment will see large-scale development in two to three years, but in the short term, he said aggressive developers might make loss-making bids.
Despite much higher equipment, operating and maintenance costs, he said offshore projects were close to the most economically developed areas of the nation that could afford higher power prices and had few grid connection problems.