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China

Grids - Transmission shortfall may slow growth in China

CHINA: Grid bottlenecks mean that new wind build in China is likely to be lower this year than it was in 2009. Last year, China added 12GW of wind power, almost doubling its total wind power capacity to 24GW.

But although that 12GW means China tops the world in newly installed capacity in 2009, 2010 is unlikely to trump the heady days of last year. Shi Pengfei, vice-president of the China Wind Energy Association, estimates that the wind superpower will only install 10GW this year.

Shi says the bottleneck in sending wind power-generated electricity to power grids is likely to blame for the fall-back in capacity growth. The news comes as Windpower Monthly publishes its annual status reports on the state of play in the industry across the globe.

According to both Windpower Monthly's own research and provisional numbers calculated by Shi, last year's boom in wind growth in China has led the eastern behemoth to edge out Spain to boast the third-largest total wind capacity in the world, after the US and Germany.

Still, China's fragmented grid has long been a problem for the country. By the end of 2008, more than a quarter of completed wind turbines remained unconnected to the electricity transmission network. Last year's China Wind Power conference was dominated by discussion of how grid improvements could allow more wind capacity to be put online.

Interconnections

The national government has a blueprint for grid expansion, but local administrations often have different plans, which had led to confusion and bottlenecking of wind projects.

Eleven interconnections between isolated grids have been established but, in practice, little electricity is exported from one grid to another. Most traded cross-provincial power falls under a quota system that is unsuited to the variability of wind supply. "The idea of interconnected provincial grids is relatively recent," says Sebastian Meyer, research director at Azure.

Meyer adds that the development of a national-level spot market for power - where prices that may be much higher than average on-grid power purchase rates are available - would benefit the industry by boosting trade and providing funds for new infrastructure.

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