Chill wind blowing for turbine industry

08:37, June 03, 2011      

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A worker at a wind turbine in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. China increased its total wind power capacity to 41.8 gigawatts in 2010, up 62 percent from the previous year. (Cai Zengle / for China Daily)

Wind turbine manufacturers are feeling the industry performance pinch for the first time after five years of good times in China, the world's fastest-growing wind power market, said industry experts.

Following recent incidents where a total of 1,346 wind turbines were disconnected from the power grid on April 17 in Gansu and Hebei provinces, China is planning to issue stringent national standards for wind turbine manufacturers.

The incidents, which caused energy wastage, reduced electricity output to millions of customers.

The national standards, being drawn up by the government, are expected to set the tone in the industry, requiring that all installed wind turbines are equipped with low-voltage ride-through (LVRT) capability to ensure stability to the power grid.

LVRT refers to the capability of wind turbines to maintain continuous operation during and after precipitous voltage dips, allowing the power grid to be adjusted more quickly and improve the overall safety and stability of the grid.

"This will put considerable pressure on wind turbine makers and wind farm operators to upgrade China's 34,000 wind turbines," said Li Yinghua, deputy director of the security regulatory bureau under the State Electricity Regulatory Commission (SERC).

Compulsory national standards for wind-generated electricity are needed to regulate grid compliance and build a strong smart grid in the country, industry experts said.

At present, most of China's installed wind turbines do not have the LVRT capability and domestic manufacturers are upgrading their machines in the wake of the recent incidents in Gansu and Hebei provinces.

The State Grid, China's largest power distributor, issued the current standards in practice for wind power operators in 2009, but these were not enforced nationally.

It costs between 10,000 and 500,000 yuan to upgrade a single wind turbine by installing LVRT, depending on the turbine model, said experts from Denmark-based Vestas Wind Systems, a leading international wind turbine manufacturer.

"Some turbine models merely need software upgrading, while others require much more than that," said Shi Haifeng, an expert with the Finland-based The Switch, a leading supplier of wind turbine components.

Wind turbine manufacturers are capable of installing the LVRT technology but some wind farm operators do not want the function partly due to cost concerns, an expert from a European wind turbine manufacturer said.

"LVRT capability is not the only reason for the system's failure," said Qin Haiyan, secretary-general of the China Wind Energy Association. "Even with the technology, such disruptions are still inevitable because the power grid is a system."

Meanwhile, the current standards also suggest wind farm operators to install the Static Var Compensator, which costs at least hundreds of thousands yuan and can maintain steady voltage and stabilize the power system.

According to the European company expert who declined to be named due to company policy, the wind farms in Gansu and Hebei, where the disconnection took place, did not have the Static Var Compensator, which could help to regulate voltage and regulate the power system.

China increased its total wind power capacity to 41.8 gigawatts in 2010, up 62 percent from the previous year.

However, for the first time since 2005, growth in wind power is slowing down, partly due to more controls from the government to prevent the industry from overheating. The industry had been experiencing triple-digit growth before 2009.

Source: China Daily
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