Love wind, fear wind: growing pains of China's wind power industry (3)

09:26, May 29, 2011      

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Despite these problems, China's state-owned power companies are continuing to build and develop new wind farms.

Their zeal can be partially attributed to the government's requirement that power companies must use non-hydropower renewable energy sources to generate at least 8 percent of their total power by 2020.

This requirement is part of the government's pledge to cut down on carbon dioxide emissions. Wind power is believed to be the cheapest and most efficient renewable power sources available to these companies.

To solve power transmission problems, the State Grid has invested 41.8 billion yuan to construct 23,200 kilometers of transmission lines. However, even this amount will be far from enough.

Shi Lishan, the deputy director of the new energy and renewable energy department of the National Energy Bureau (NEB), thinks there might be a better option available.

Shi says that China should build wind farms in areas with lower average wind speeds, as opposed to expanding existing wind power farms and transmitting power over great distances.

The China Wind Energy Association (CWEA) says that about 68 percent of the country's viable wind power-generating regions qualify as low wind speed areas.

China's wind power industry is mainly concentrated in its northern and southeastern regions, where wind speeds are typically quite high.

Bai Jianhua, director of the State Grid energy strategy and planning research institute, says China will expand its installed wind power capacity in low wind speed areas to 20 GW, or about 20 percent of the country's total installed wind power capacity, by the end of 2015.

China has made a substantial step in this regard. Longyuan completed constructing a 200MW low-speed wind farm in Lai'an, Chuzhou City of central Anhui Province, on May 10. It is expected to generate 390 million kWh electricity per year.

Longyuan says the wind farm may run for nearly 2,000 hours a year, compared with 2,600-2,800 hours in the northern areas. But Lai'an sits near the terminal users of the East China Grid, which will ensure wind turbines run at full capacity.

Longyuan says it will construct more such low-speed wind farms in Anhui and neighboring Shandong Province. In Chuzhou City alone, Longyuan will construct 1GW wind farms in three years.

Industry officials said China has many similar areas like Lai'an that are based in Anhui, Hubei, Fujian and Yunnan provinces, all big users of electric power.

Longyuan officials said constructing wind farms in these low wind speed areas costs about 5 percent more than those in northern areas. But since these low wind speed areas boast better transportation and construction conditions, wind farm operators may offset the increased costs through internal control.

Therefore, the comprehensive benefits of these wind farms will be higher than those in high wind speed areas in the north.

Meanwhile, some industry officials propose a "time break" after years of doubling growth in the wind power industry.

Lu Jianjun says "China's wind farms were constructed a bit too fast. They have outpaced supporting grids, management and technologies. Proper reorganization is necessary."

Lu believes when wind power has developed to a certain extent, it is unrealistic to maintain the doubling-growth miracle. Therefore, in order to facilitate sustainable and healthy development of the industry, Lu thinks it's necessary to rein in its development for the time being.
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Source: Xinhua
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