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Wind Power with Nowhere to Go in China

Tiffany Finley | Thursday March 17th, 2011 | 0 Comments

Yesterday, we examined the actual wind power being produced versus the wind power installed in China. With only 2/3rds of installed wind power connected to the grid, Chinese wind companies are losing money and opportunities to further diversify their energy mix. One of the major barriers to getting all of the installed turbines on the grid is connectivity, which requires transmission lines to transfer the energy from the turbines to the power stations. In the wind-rich north, the installed transmission lines were already functioning at near maximum capacity, leaivng little room left for wind energy transmission. The lines are 20 years old in most parts, and are insufficient in meeting the energy demands of both the local populations and the Country’s quest for more energy. These lines continue to impede Chinese wind energy due to three major obstacles: cpacity, connectivity, and responsibility.

Since the lines are outdated and already functioning at maximum capacity, the north is in great need of new transmission lines. In the continued irony of the Chinese wind story, the most wind-rich part of the nation, Inner Mongolia, is the only grid opearting independently of the China State Grid Corporation. This provincial level network is run by a small company that cannot afford to pay for new transmission lines to supply wind elsewhere. The exponentially wealthier State Grid Corporation can afford to install the transmission lines, but lacks the financial and political incentives to do so.

Wind companies are becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of connectivity as the blame shifts to everyone involved. Companies claimed to have been nearly seduced into building wind projects in the wind-rich areas with little to no connectivity to the grid by provincial governments.  The investment raises the GDP statistics of the area, regardless of whether the wind is connected ot the grid or not. The companies claim to have been aggressively working toward China’s renewable energy mix, and it is instead the grid companies who should be held responsible. Those companies and local governments chastise the Chinese government for allowing the development to happen in the first place. While the government claims that its regulations were carefully avoided by companies. The National Development and Reform Commission must approve wind projects of 50 MW or more, leading companies to install precisely 49.5 MW projects. And so the circle continues, as China’s energy use and dependence on fossil fuels climbs.

One thing is for certain, if the installed wind capacity is to be put to use, it will require the government to step in and manage the Chinese energy policy’s transformation from a growth mentality to instead a strategic growth plan.

This series on Chinese Wind Energy will take a closer look at the wind energy issues specific to China, as it relates to climate change and models for wind-rich developing countries.

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