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Analysis: China considers 34GW for approval

CHINA: China's National Energy Administration (NEA) has released a list of new wind projects totalling 34GW in capacity that await its final approval.

A Ming Yang SCD turbine being installed in northern China
A Ming Yang SCD turbine being installed in northern China

The planned sites of the 541 wind projects are scattered across the country. More than a half, or 55%, of the total wind capacity on the list will settle in the central, eastern and southern parts of the country, where wind speeds are comparatively low but power demands are high.

The provincial regions Xinjiang in the Northwest and Liaoning and Jilin in the Northeast, with an extensive capacity, have been omitted from the list. All three areas have had serious curtailment problems. Projects in these regions will be dealt with separately when curtailments ease up in the future, the NEA said.

Developments that have not been submitted for central governnment approval are also missing from the list. Such projects are subject to approval by provincial authorities, in accordance with local grid connecting conditions. When commissioned, they will qualify for relevant state subsidy.

Similar treatments are granted to wind-hydrogen projects and to wind power production bases in some areas of Ningxia, Gansu, Sichuan and Xinjiang.

The year's first quarterly wind power performance report, released a few days earlier, said the national average wind uptime in the first three months stood at 477 hours, down by 2 hours on the same period of 2014. The average curtailment rate was 18.6%, up 6.6 percentage points on a year before. Much of this came from Xinjiang, Liaoning and Jilin where curtailments were at 26%, 35% and 58% respectively.

Q1's rise in curtailments was caused by stronger winds and the boost of new installations. This exerted a high pressure on grid operations. Lower power demand was also a factor, the NEA said.

In the three-month period, China had 4.7GW of wind turbines newly connected to the grid, pushing up the cumulative total to 101GW. The national target was 100GW of grid connected wind capacity at the end of 2015.

The latest list is the fifth and last for the 12th Five-Year Period (2010-2015). Since 2011, China has announced every year a list of wind projects planned for approval. The first four lists combined totalled 107.68GW in capacity. Most were officially approved and installed. A small portion of them were abandoned for failing to meet requirements.

The projects on the fifth list must gain approval within 2015. To do this developers must hit a number of milestones like securing a grid connection contract and a PPA. Delays may result in project cancellation. The execution of the annual wind plan will serve as a basis for the NEA's decisions on the development of specific regions in 2016.

According to the Chinese Wind Energy Association, the country's actual installations in 2014 came to 23.2GW. About 18.23GW of wind turbines had yet to be connected with the grid. This year increased installations are expected as developers race to complete projects before 31 December when new FIT rules come into force. The new prices are CNY0.02 /kWh lower than the old ones.

Developers on the fifth list are ineligible for the old FIT so the deadline should not apply. But they are not completely free of worry. Other rounds of rates-cut loom ahead, because the government seems to believe there is room for further reduction and it has set the goal of lowering the wind electricity price to the level of coal-fired power by the end of 2020.

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