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Chinese Distributed Wind Projects Required to Meet Grid Requirements

China is on track to have approximately 100 GW of installed wind power capacity connected to its power grid by 2015, including 23 GW installed capacity of distributed wind power projects, according to its five-year development plan for 2011 to 2015. Distributed wind power projects typically use small turbines that offset on-site energy consumption.

The National Energy Administration recently released development and construction guidelines for distributed wind in a move to drive and standardize projects to connect to the power grid.

Henan, Anhui, Shanxi, Guizhou, along with some other provinces, have been put on the list of key areas for distributed wind. However, necessary development planning has taken more time than expected. Wind power projects across the country have been challenged by technical requirements for grid-connected systems to ensure the stability and safety of the power grid. 

According to guidelines, distributed wind power projects, where installed capacity is not allowed to exceed 50 MW, can only connect to the existing 110-kV or 66-kV power grid systems through multi-access points. Some industry experts suggest that it will cost more for these 50-MW projects to meet these requirements. An insider from a large Chinese wind power farm said all existing wind turbines are designed to connect to higher-voltage power grid systems, which means that all distributed wind turbines will need further upgrade work before they can be connected to the power grid.

In addition, distributed wind project owners are required to build power forecasting systems to deliver periodically updated data on the operation of wind farms. Many wind power farm operators said they are being forced to bear these increased costs. The consolidated investment of a distributed wind power project is 5 percent higher than that of a large wind project of the same size, along with unpredictable cost increases, which discourages many wind power developers. 

“Distributed wind projects trail most of the large wind power projects in technology, profitability and support by governments, and there is still a long way to go before we will witness the necessary burst of development that will really put the sector on the map,” said Bai Jianhua, deputy chief economist of State Grid Energy Research Institute.

By the end of 2011, the State Grid Corporation of China saw installed capacity of wind power projects connected to the grid rise 55 percent on a yearly basis to nearly 44 GW, and generation increased by 49 percent year on year to 70.6 billion kWh.

An industry expert said China's wind power industry is in a transition period, the end result of which will be to convert China into a powerful contributor to the global wind market. 

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