China wind growth still healthy but grid problem no better

September 19, 2012
Wind farm at sunset

China's wind power capacity will grow by 15 to 18-GW this year, according to a joint report released yesterday by the Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association, the Global Wind Energy Council and Greenpeace.

The report on China's wind power outlook predicts that China's wind power sector will maintain the steady growth momentum seen last year which catapulted it into the world’s number 1 spot in terms of installed capacity.

According to the report, China installed 17.63 GW of new wind power capacity in 2011, accounting for 43 percent of the world's total new capacity. It remained the world's largest wind power producer with an accumulated capacity of 62.36-GW, representing 26.2 percent of the world's total.

At the end of 2011, 47.84-GW of wind power, 76.71 percent of the country’s installed capacity, was connected to its power grid, up from 69.9 percent in 2010, the report shows. State Grid Corporation of China, the country's largest grid operator and power distributor, said last month that it was connected over 50-GW of wind power generating capacity, representing an annual growth rate of 87 percent for the last six years.

While on the surface, this relative improvement in grid connectivity appears to be good news for the wind sector, in absolute terms things were worse at the end of 2011 than a year earlier, with more than 14.5-GW of idle wind capacity compared to 13.46-GW at the end of 2010.

According to statistics, 10 billion kWh of wind-generated power was “curtailed” in surveyed regions, or 12 percent of these regions’ total wind energy. As a result, wind farm operators suffered losses of more than 5 billion yuan (USD712 million) from curtailment, halving the sector’s profits.

The curtailed energy amounts to what could have been generated by burning 3.3 million tons of coal, which in turn equals to10 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions, according to the report.

A statistical analysis showed the problem was most serious in eastern Inner Mongolia and Jilin, which had a curtailment rate of over 20 percent. Curtailment was also serious in western Inner Mongolia, Gansu and Heilongjiang, each with a curtailment rate of more than 10 percent.

Top 10 wind power provinces in China

  Province 2010 Cumulative (MW) 2011 Annual (MW) 2011 Cumulative (MW)
1 Inner Mongolia 13,858.0 3,736.4 17,594.4
2 He Bei 4,794.0 2,175.5 6,969.5
3 Gansu 4,944.0 465.2 5,409.2
4 Liao Ning 4,066.9 1,182.5 5,249.3
5 Shan Dong 2,637.8 1,924.5 4,562.3
6 Ji Lin 2,940.9 622.5 3,563.4
7 Hei Longjiang 2,370.1 1,075.8 3,445.8
8 Ning Xia 1,182.7 1,703.5 2,886.2
9 Xin Jiang 1,363.6 952.5 2,316.1
10 Jiang Su 1,595.3 372.3 1,967.6











With grid connection problems plaguing China’s north and northwest regions, which are rich in wind resources, the big wind project developers put a lot more focus on the relatively resource poor central and eastern parts of the country which are closer to the main energy consumption markets.