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China Releases Technical Standards for Wind Power Industry

China's National Energy Administration (NEA) in early August approved a series of technical standards designed to better regulate the development of its wind energy sector. The 18 technical standards cover grid access for large wind farms, development of offshore wind, monitoring wind turbine operations, quantitative benchmarks for assessing the quality of output, and manufacturing requirements for key equipment. The new standards will go into effect on the first of November.

China's wind power sector has expanded rapidly over recent years. It is now the world leader in total installed capacity, reaching 44,733 MW in 2010. In the same year, four of the country’s wind turbine manufacturers were among the top 10 companies of its kind globally. During the first half of 2011, China generated 38.6 billion kWh of wind power, up 61 percent year on year (the fastest among all types of energy), according to the latest data from NEA. Construction of a number of large-scale wind power plants in Gansu, Inner Mongolia, Hebei, Xinjiang and Jiangsu are gradually moving towards completion.

However, the absence of standards has led to reduced quality control and poor management, according to industry analysts. The sector experienced many wind turbines that were disconnected from the grid this year. In February alone, 598 wind turbines at 16 wind farms in Jiuquan, Gansu province were disconnected from the grid during voltage sags. Most of the country’s operating wind turbines do not have the low-voltage ride-through capability, nor do they meet the technical requirements of power supply systems, and as a result, they simply disconnect from the grid when a voltage dip occurs.

The new standards require capability upgrades for on-grid wind turbines. This requirement, upon implementation, is expected to significantly reduce grid faults. In addition, new wind turbine manufacturers must have an annual capacity of at least 1,000 MW, the ability to produce wind turbines with unit capacity of no less than 2.5 MW each, and at least five years of large-scale power equipment experience. When establishing a new plant, the manufacturer must provide no less than 30 percent of the investment.

This puts mounted pressure on new industry players in terms of technology, production, experience and finance. It is expected to accelerate consolidation by eliminating small-sized manufacturers beset by outdated technologies while consolidating the leadership among the top players.

Goldwind Science & Technology, China’s largest wind turbine developer and manufacturer, has been upgrading its wind turbines since April to a better low-voltage, ride-through capability. Sinovel Wind Group, Dongfang Turbine, Xiangtan Electric Manufacturing, Nordex China and Vestas China have also said they have started these upgrade projects. 

Industry insiders agree that China’s wind turbine manufacturing sector is indeed moving towards a stage of maturity by closing down inefficient plants, through consolidation and noticeable improvements in levels of standardization and sustainability.

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