BEIJING — Latest data from China’s National Energy Administration shows that 8.85 GW of new wind power capacity was installed in the first nine months of 2014, bringing its total capacity to nearly 85 GW, a year-on-year increase of 22 percent. Accounting for 6.6 percent of China’s total installed power capacity, wind exceeds nuclear power in installed capacity and electricity production, has become the third major power source following coal and hydro.
By the end of September, wind power connected to the grid totaled 106 billion kWh, rising by 7.6 percent year-on-year. During the none-month January-September period, wind energy curtailment in the country amounted to 8.6 billion kWh, a decrease of 28.3 percent year-on-year. The average wind power curtailment rate had dropped to 7.5 percent by the end of September, a fall of 3.36 percentage points on a yearly basis.
Despite the decline in wind power curtailment, 28 provinces, cities and regions across China saw a decrease in wind power utilization hours, led by Xinjiang semi-autonomous region, Chongqing municipality and Shanxi province, all located in the Western part of China. The regions posted a year-on-year decrease of 503 hours, 4,213 hours and 402 hours, respectively. Jiangsu and Yunnan provinces saw an increase in utilization hours. In the first nine months of this year, the country’s average wind power utilization time reached 1,336 hours, a decline of 196 hours year-on-year.
Zhou Yiyi, a wind analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, explained that the number of wind power utilization hours depends on the availability of wind resources. A windy year occurs every four years in China, and the average wind speeds this year have been significantly lower than last year’s.
Ren Haoning, an energy researcher at China’s leading industry research institution CIConsulting, said that despite a reduction in both wind power curtailment and rate, the curtailment issue has not been resolved and the country needs better and more detailed planning for wind power projects.
Ren added that a boom in the number of new wind power projects requires a matching rise in operational efficiency and the wind power utilization hours define the rate of return on wind power projects, something which the grid companies need to constantly monitor.
A wind farm industry insider said that he foresees onshore electricity prices dropping next year, with the warning that the construction of wind power projects should start before the prices go down. However, Wind power projects are built much faster than grid infrastructure.
S&P Consulting analyst Zhang Jiao said that the construction of a typical wind power project is completed within one year, while the supporting grid facilities for cross-district transmission takes about two years. He sees this construction period imbalance as the fundamental cause of wind power curtailment.
Ren added that grid companies are concerned that large and unstable wind power projects may affect the safety and stability of the grid and that it is a global necessity to ensure the stability of grid-connected wind power projects.
Lead image: Wind turbines via Shutterstock