Project Profile: Shanghai Donghai Bridge

At more than 100 MW, the Shanghai Donghai Bridge Offshore Wind Power Demonstration Project, which recently powered the city’s World Expo, marks China’s first foray into the offshore wind arena. But, as the first offshore wind installation beyond Europe, the development also perhaps marks the beginning of a new era of the global offshore wind market.

Furthermore, as a development of scale and using domestically manufactured machines, the project also again stamps China’s growing authority on the global wind power stage.

Located in the administrative waters of Shanghai, east of the Donghai Bridge, the installation stands some 8-13 km from Nanhuizui coastline in an average water depth of 10 metres.

Total installed capacity is 102 MW and the annual average power output is estimated at some 268 GWh, reportedly sufficient to meet the needs of more than 200,000 Shanghai households. Power is delivered through a submarine cable to mainland Shanghai, with grid connection completed in July last year. Output from the project is sold to the local utility group the East China Power Grid (ECPG), itself connected to the Central China Power Grid (CCPG), consisting of six provincial grids and Yangcheng Power Plant (YCPP).

Rated at 690 V, electricity generated from the project is transmitted via a step-up substation to a 110 kV transmission line and subsequently a 220 kV substation owned by ECPG. Additional transformers (35 kV/110 kV) have been installed to accommodate the project. The wind turbines and transmission facility are monitored and controlled at the utility’s central control room and the project is estimated to generate with an average load factor of 29.95%.

A Manufacturing First

The first prototype turbine of the project was hoisted and mounted before an initial batch of three wind turbines were put into operation in September 2009. On the last day of August, 2010, the final machines completed their 240-hour pre-assessment check, bringing all 34 units of the Sinovel SL3000 turbines into full commercial operation.

By the end of the commissioning period, the installation had supplied a cumulative 48,272 MWh, although the company has not revealed any further operational details so far.

China’s first offshore wind installation (Source: Sinovel)

Nonetheless, Sinovel’s Donghai Bridge project clocked up a number of firsts for the country’s wind technology sector. Developed by Sinovel Wind Group Co., Ltd, which owns the intellectual property, the company began shipping its 3 MW machines for the onshore and offshore markets in 2009 and Shanghai Donghai marked the first time use offshore.

The installation also saw the first use of a system that allows the hoisting of a complete offshore wind turbine nacelle, rotor and tower onto the transition piece, reducing the construction period at sea. It enables the assembly of 10 units on board and successfully hoisted eight units at sea in a month, Sinovel says. The project was also the first in the world to use high-rise pile cap foundation design, a solution to technical problems such as bearing, uplift resistance, and horizontal displacement of tall wind turbines, Sinovel adds. It offers the SL3000 series with a rotor diameter of 90, 100, 105 or 113 metres and the hub heights of 80, 90, 100, or 110 metres.

The marinised version of the turbine features a 91.3 metre rotor diameter suitable for IEC class Ia wind regime and has a 6547 m² swept area. With a nominal operational wind speed of 13 m/s and a maximum of 25 m/s, the machine cuts in a 3.5m/s. Its rated rotational speed is 7.5-17.6 rpm. Available in 80 or 90 metre hub heights for offshore, the project features the 90 metre tower version.

Sinovel Technology Alliance

Timed to coincide with the Shanghai Expo, the offshore development acts as a showcase for Sinovel’s wind turbine technology. China’s largest domestic wind turbine manufacturer, Sinovel is headquartered in Beijing, and has manufacturing bases in China’s Dalian, Jiangsu, Inner Mongolia and Gansu Provinces. It specialises in the R&D, design, manufacturing and sales of a variety of wind turbines. Already one of the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturers — now in the top three — like many Asian manufacturing groups Sinovel has fostered relations with an established technology supply partner.

Sinovel has maintained a close technology relationship with AMSC American Superconductor and is already producing 1.5 MW, 3 MW and 5 MW wind turbines utilising AMSC Windtec’s designs. For example, an $18 million contract for core electrical components for Sinovel’s 3 MW turbines was signed in early 2008 and extended in September 2009. AMSC’s wind turbine electrical control systems and core electrical components include power converters, pitch and yaw converters, SCADA systems and other power electronics.

In May 2010, the two expanded their strategic partnership, which began in 2005, to include additional wind turbine designs for both the onshore and offshore markets. Under the new agreement, Sinovel and AMSC Windtec will design and jointly develop a range of multi-megawatt turbines that Sinovel plans to market and sell worldwide. Sinovel says it expects to begin volume production by the end of 2012 and, as part of the agreement, will purchase core electrical components from AMSC for these new machines too.

Greg Yurek, founder and chief executive officer of AMSC, previously said: ‘Sinovel plans to increase production of its 3 MW wind turbines, which are installed and operating in China’s first offshore wind farm and also being marketed for onshore.’

In October 2010, Sinovel announced that its first 5 MW wind turbines had been manufactured. Sinovel expects to have its SL5000 branded machine erected early in 2011 and to commence full production this year. Meanwhile R&D on a 6 MW machine is reportedly progressing, with a machine due to roll off the assembly line in the first half of 2011.

Project Finance

The project Feasibility Study Report prepared by Shanghai Institute of Investigation, Design and Research details an initial investment of RMB2.3 billion ($350 million) although some sources have put the cost at closer to RMB23 billion ($3.6 billion), far more than budgeted. Whatever the financial and operational success — or otherwise — emerging from the project, as the first offshore wind farm in China, many unexpected risks and challenges have and will need to be overcome. This is likely to increase investment costs. But the project will also assist China in meeting a key policy objective, accelerating the commercialisation of grid-connected offshore wind. And plans already announced in China could see some 10 GW of offshore wind developed by 2015 across Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Shandong and Fujian provinces. Other provinces have reportedly drafted plans for a further 1 GW of offshore.

Sinovel Chairman and President Han Junliang is emphatic when setting out his ambitions for the company: ‘Our next objective is to become the largest wind turbine manufacturer in the world. This will be accomplished by our ability to offer a wide array of highly reliable, high-efficiency wind turbines for the global onshore and offshore markets.’ Simply building Shanghai Donghai means that the company has taken its first steps along that road.

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