• Thu
  • Aug 28, 2014
  • Updated: 11:03pm

Fewer Chinese wind turbines left idle or wasted amid power grid upgrades

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 September, 2013, 3:01am

Fewer of the mainland's wind turbines are idle after hurdles in connecting power supplies to the grid were lowered, aiding operators such as China Longyuan Power.

The annual rate of the country's idled wind capacity might fall to 12 per cent this year from 17 per cent last year, said Guo Yanheng, the deputy director of the National Renewable Energy Engineering Information Management Centre. Ten per cent of mainland wind power capacity was sitting unused in the first half of the year, two percentage points lower than a year ago, according to the centre's data.

Idled capacity has dogged wind farm operators after a rush to build turbines in the windiest areas of the country surpassed the grid's ability to absorb and transmit the power. This year may be the first since 2010 that the rate of idled turbines has declined, according to the centre.

"The entire industry is a little bit more mature than it was three or four years ago, with wind operators actually considering not just wind speed and availability of land, but transmission capacity when they start to build," Michael Parker, a Hong Kong-based analyst at Sanford C Bernstein, said last week. "There's opportunity for a much larger portfolio of wind in China."

The rate of curtailment, the term used to describe when wind farms produce at less than their generation capacity, may decline to the low single-digit percentage level in 2015 as transmission capacity improves, Parker said.

"That places the Chinese wind sector fully in the same kind of utilisation range as the rest of the world," he added.

Growth in the world's biggest wind market slowed last year for the first time since at least 2004, and it might install 13 gigawatts of turbines this year, 6 per cent less than last year, according to research.

The mainland connected 4.8 gigawatts of wind power to grids in the first half, Guo said. The pace of connection may accelerate in the second half, he forecasts.

Beijing is investing 500 billion yuan (HK$630 billion) to improve its grid system, with plans to build a nationwide network of ultrahigh-voltage transmission lines, CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets analysts wrote last month.



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When you net out the effect of wind power, more wind power probably increases pollution! When you have wind power in the generation source mix, you have to have plenty of alternative sources. In the U.S. the alternative might be simple cycle gas turbines or gas-fired reciprocating engines. In China though you don't have much gas, and the little you have is quite expensive. So what China uses to back up their wind power is coal-fired plants. For periods of low wind generation supply (too much wind can cause the wind turbines to spin out of control, too little obviously you don't produce any power) you need to have a bunch of coal plants on line. When the wind supply is high, the grid would have to shed coal plant load. They can't just take whole plants off line easily; coal-fired plants take many hours to bring on or take off line. So what they do is reduce the load of individual plants, take them from say 100% load to 70% load. (In other cases they might have whole plants just idling.) In the U.S. coal-fired plants have very good controls and can maintain they same NOx emissions throughout the load cycle. Not so in China's poorly controlled plants. NOx emissions shoot up not just a little but a lot, maybe double, maybe worse than that Energy efficiency also decreases. I'm not sure what happens to SOx emissions at low load.
Wind power has a very big unintended consequence in that pollution is quite probably increased. Exactly what is the real benefit of wind power?


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