Category Archives: Grid integration


China wind power development back on track, but…..

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The latest market report from GWEC is encouraging reading for the Chinese wind industry, but the main challenges for the future development are still not solved.

The new Global Wind Statistics 2013 from Global Wind Energy Council shows a global recession in the wind power development with the Chinese market as a remarkable exception. After two years with lower new installed capacity than the previous year, 2013 gave 16 GW new capacity in China, now reaching a total installed capacity of 91.4 GW wind power.

Annual installed wind power capacity in China in MW.

Annual installed wind power capacity in China in MW. Source: GWEC.

The un-official NEA target for 2013 was 18 GW and this is probably the level of new capacity NEA would like to see for the years to come for on-shore turbines. The peak in installed capacity was in 2010 with almost 19 GW, while 2011 and 2012 showed a decrease (17.5 GW and 12.9 GW).

For the Chinese wind industry this is good news. The Chinese wind manufacturers are totally depended on the Chinese market – only the biggest companies have succeeded in global activities on a small scale – and the last couple of years have been a nightmare for a number of companies with Sinovel as the most known. And a level of around 18 GW annually would give new wind to at least the biggest and most competitive companies.

But the crisis in the Chinese wind industry is probably not finished yet for several reasons.

Firstly, the main barriers for integration of wind power into the Chinese energy system have not be removed. In average more than 20% of the potential wind power production is curtailed on a yearly basis, and some wind farms experience more than 40% of the yearly production is curtailed. Needless to say that this is jeopardizing the economy of the wind farm projects if this continue. The integration issue is first and foremost a question about the right incentives for the thermal power plants to be more flexible – the cure is quite clear, but such institutional changes require a strong hand from the whole government and coordinated effort from a number of different ministries.

Secondly the Chinese government aims to gradually reduce the size of the Feed-In-Tariff, which again puts strong requirements on the future development of the wind turbines to lower the total cost of energy – both the investment cost but not least improving the reliability and reducing the operational costs.

Thirdly the requirements from the grid to the wind turbines are increasingly strong. This is necessary in order to technically integrate a larger share of wind power and also in line with the global development, where wind turbines more and more is considered as “normal” power plants with requirements or delivering different types of services to the power system. This put even more pressure on the Chinese wind manufacturers to be innovative and deliver with high quality. On the other hand – if the Chinese manufacturers can deliver to the future Chinese market they will also be able to compete on the global market to the benefit of the global development and deployment of wind power.

So let us enjoy the revival of the Chinese wind power market in 2013, but let us hope the Chinese wind turbine manufacturers and the Chinese government will be able to act quickly on the current challenges. Failure to act will be a serious threat to the future for the Chinese wind power industry and for the global wind power development as such.

The dispatch centre at

Integration of RE – made simple

“Why make it complicated when it is simple” might be the motto of – the Danish Transmission System Operator, at least when it come to explain the fundamentals regarding integration of variable renewable energy. But of course the have the experience, with 55% of the electricity consumption in December 2013 delivered by wind power.

At the IRENA assembly in Abu Dhabi, Peter Jørgensen, Vice President for International Relations, gave a short, but very clear presentation of the challenges, means and the preconditions for a successful grid-integration.

The main challenges for variable RE compared to conventional power production is how to develop the energy system to maximize the value of the generation as it come. The characteristics for these RE technologies – the variability of the renewable resources, the location of the energy production – which might be far from load centres or as household connector photovoltaic, and the cost structure with large upfront investments and almost zero marginal energy costs – stresses the “old” energy system and the “old” thinking about how to run the power system and power markets.

The Danish energy system a January night with high wind power production

The Danish energy system a January night with high wind power production

In order to solve this challenge, focus should be on grid development and flexibility measures. Peter Jørgensen underlined at the presentation the fact, that investments in transmission lines are much cheaper than investments in power generation, and strong transmission grids will be able to balance RE sources in larger areas. Furthermore competitive electricity markets are necessary to ensure optimal utilization of the transmissions grid in a flexible way.

The flexibility measures includes grid codes to ensure stability, and clear price signals reflecting the system balance to incentivize dynamic response. The SmartGrid concept should be replaced by SmartEnergy to optimize RE utilization across energy sector and support price flexibility. Last but least, new operational procedures and forecasting tools are needed to ensure efficient system balancing and security of supply.

To make this happen, a political commitment and regulatory framework is a prerequisite, together with long term grid planning and a similar coherent energy system planning to ensure the optimal use of RE in all sectors. And a new paradigm for system operation is a must, ensuring the right price mechanisms for flexibility in generation and demand, and ensuring a dynamic and efficient system balancing and security of supply

Ok, implementation of means and preconditions might not be simple but a clear picture of what is needed and why, must be the starting point. And I think that Energinet’s presentation hit the nail here!

See the presentation here.


Time for more flexibility in the Chinese power system

Lack of flexibility is one of the biggest obstacles for integration of fluctuating renewable energy in the Chinese power system. The thermal power plants and the transmission grid are currently operated too inflexible, which especially in North China results in massive curtailment of wind power.

Looking more into the problems reveals both technical challenges, lack of economic incentives and regulatory issues as the main reasons for this inflexibility, which damages the further development of renewable energy in China.

Fortunately experiences from other countries show that these problems can be overcome. In Europe curtailment of renewable energy is very small, even in areas with much higher share of renewable energy that in the Northern China.

One of the secrets behind Denmark’s large share of wind power is the extreme flexibility of the thermal fossil fired power plants. Due to years of continuous effort, most of the Danish power plants have very low minimum capacity output for on-grid operation, they have fast up and down regulating capabilities, and they are able to have a quick start-up from zero to full load, compared to power plants in other countries. Establishment of a time-dynamic pricing for power purchase via a well-functioning market has been a strong motivator for this development. The dynamic pricing, with high prices when the demand is high and uncontrolled power supply is low and visa versa, send a clear signal to the power producers when to produce and when to avoid producing.


Danish experiences were presented at a CNREC-RED expert meeting on flexible power plants 4 December 2013

Danish experiences were presented at a CNREC-RED expert meeting on flexible power plants 4 December 2013

Flexibility for the thermal power plants was the topic to an expert meeting on 4 December 2013, arranged by CNREC and the Sino-Danish RED program. Experts from Denmark shared their experience in how to make coal-fired power plants more flexible. The meeting also discussed the lack of economic incentives for the Chinese power producers to operate more flexibility.

You can find more information about the meeting and the presentations from the meeting here.


Danmark 2012: 30% wind power and no curtailment at all – how is it possible?

2012 was a new record year for wind power in Denmark. Last year the wind power production in Denmark amounted to 30% of the Danish electricity consumption, while in 2011 the figure was 28,2%. This is of course good news for the global environment but due to Denmark’s small size the biggest contribution to the global environment might not be the CO2 reduction itself but the Danish showcase: It is possible to have a high share of fluctuating electricity production in the energy system without curtailment at all. And 30% is only a step towards the even more ambitious target of 50% in 2020. Right now the next off-shore wind farm is being established in Denmark – see the pictures here. (The picture below is the Danish wind farm Middelgrunden near Copenhagen on a cloudy October day in 2012).

Middelgrunden near Copenhagen

But what is the secret behind the large share of wind power, and what can China learn from Denmark?

A number of factors enables the high wind power penetration. Denmark has strong transmission lines to the neighbouring countries and access to hydro power storage in Norway. And a well functioning electricity market ensures optimal use of these interconnectors and the optimal combination of wind power and hydro power. The dynamic pricing of electricity created by the electricity market send price signals hour by hour to the producers and consumers. When the electricity production is high due to wind power and combined heat and power production (CHP), the electricity price is low; and when the wind power production is low (or zero) the price gets higher. This system also gives strong incentives for the power producers to make their thermal power plants more flexible. In facts, some of the coal fired power plants in Denmark can produce electricity and heat at a level of 10% of their maximum capacity. In China the requirements for minimum production is 50% of the max. capacity for the coal-fired power plants. All Danish CHP plants have also heat storage attached, which makes it easier to decouple heat and power production. When the electricity price is high, the CHP plants produces electricity and surplus heat can be stored in the heat storage, which basically is a large water tank. When the electricity price is low, the heat consumption is covered by the heat storage alone. And when the electricity price is very low, it can be beneficial to use electricity to warm up the water in the heat storage instead of running the thermal CHP plant. The combination of wind power, hydro power and thermal CHP plants with heat storage gives a very flexible system which is the physical explanation behind the high RE share in the Danish electricity supply.

To fully understand the Danish success of integrating wind power, you should also take into account the institutional and the “mental” framework for the electricity supply sector. In many countries – also in China – wind power is often regarded as an “add-on” to the “normal” electricity supply based on thermal power plants – fossil fuel or nuclear. The add-on RE power then is supposed to take care of its own problems, e.g. balancing the fluctuating production, and if it is not possible, then the easy solution is to curtail it, e.g. to stop the production from the wind farms, because the wind farm is causing the problem. But in Denmark, wind power is regarding as an integrated part of the electricity supply. Balancing problems is therefore a system problem, not a problem for the wind farms. This mental change in the perception of the electricity system is important for solving the integration challenges. Also the institutional set-up is important. Years ago the electricity sector was one integrated monopoly. Today the Danish grid operator (or Transmission System Operator – TSO) have been totally independent of the electricity producers for more than 12 years and it acts totally neutrally towards all power producers. Furthermore the large power producers in Denmark owns a large share of the wind power plants and integrate them into their portfolio of power plants in the daily operation. And by setting ambitious goals for the further development of RE power in Denmark (50% in 2020, 100% in 2050) the Danish government encourage both the TSO and the power producers to integrate RE in their planning process. The long term grid planning is thereby targeted at making these goal feasible, not only in Denmark but also in a European context, where the European TSO’s makes 10 years grid plans every second year.

And what are the lessons learned for China?

Firstly it is important to start considering RE power as part of the whole electricity system, not as an add-on to the thermal power system. Secondly it is urgent to setup economic incentives for flexibility for the power producers and for the use of local and regional transmission lines. Dynamic pricing is essential, but it is not necessary to introduce a complete market-setup to create this – a system with the system dispatch centres as vehicles for flexibility could be establish without a full market, like in Denmark where the electricity market evolved over a number of years, starting with more simple measures. When such economic incentives are in place, I am quite sure that the technical solution like flexible thermal power plant and heat storage at the CHP plants would develop rapidly.

Also an integrated planning process combining grid planning with planning for energy efficiency and energy supply would strengthen the integration of renewables, the development of smart grids and the use of the energy demand as part of the overall system flexibility. Maybe China could get inspiration from the European approach with the 10 year grid development plans and market studies with an even longer time horizon.

Of course China is China, and she has to develop her own solutions to the energy challenges. The Danish experiences and lessons in integration of RE can however support the analytic development of measures, methodologies and processes, which are necessary for the development of a sustainable energy system with a high share of RE in China. The Sino-Danish RED program is one example on how China and Denmark work together on such a development.


The biggest obstacle to wind power development in China

Curtailed wind power gives record loss for wind power producers in 2012. Recent estimates reveals that 20 TWh or between 20 and 30 percent of the total Chinese wind power production was curtailed in 2012, according to Qin Haiyan, secretary general of the Chinese Wind Energy Association as cited in Windpower Monthly. The curtailed electricity has the value of CNY 10 billion, and the producers have not been compensated for the loss. The curtailed electricity could lower the local and global pollution and for the society as a whole it would be cheaper to curtail the coal fired power plants instead of the wind farms. To put it simple: Curtailed wind power = more pollution + more costs + less incentives for new wind power.Jilin_wind_farm

The large amount of curtailed wind power is in my opinion the biggest obstacle for the Chinese government’s ambitious plan for wind power deployment. It is difficult for wind power developers to justify investments in new wind farms if you know that up to 40% of the annual production will not be sold. And if you are forced to establish new wind farms due to quota system or similar, you will tend to invest in cheap wind turbines with low efficiency, since high efficiency will be punished by even more curtailment.

So it is absolutely necessary to improve the situation for the wind farms quickly in order to get the benefits from wind power and encourage more investments.

Then what should be done? Well in principle the solution is straight forward: The electricity system must be more flexible and regard wind power (and solar PV) as an integrated part of the system – not as an add-on to the thermal system. Today the thermal power plants have no or few  economic incentives for being flexible, since the income is almost solely depending on sale of electricity. Also the dispatch centres should have better possibilities and incentives for a more dynamic use of interconnectors to neighboring areas. When the economic incentives are in place the technical obstacles would soon disappear – all experiences from e.g. Europe show this.

In practice it might not be as simple. It is alway difficult to change the division of benefits and costs between different stakeholders and the thermal power plants would potential have difficulties in recovering investments if they have to cut down on the number of hour they can produce during the year. But if the Chinese government want to fulfill it’s ambitions on renewable energy, a solution must be found quickly. My guess is, that this issue is on top of the agenda for the NEA this year.

PS: The picture is from a large wind farm in the North West of Jilin, one of the provinces with most curtailment.

9th international summit on Solar and Wind Energy in Western China

Grid Integration of RE – lessons learnt from Europe

This week I had the pleasure to visit the International Solar Energy Center (ISEC) in Lanzhou in Gansu and give a presentation ath the 9th International Summit on Solar and Wind Energy in Western China. The presentation gives a short overview of flexible energy systems and the latest development in trans-national grid planning in Europe.

The main messages are

  1. Flexible thermal power plant and flexible operation of the electricity and heating systems are key to integration of fluctuating wind and solar energy
  2. Institutional and economical barriers are serious challenges for a flexible energy system in China
  3. European experiences from the use of visions, scenarios and market studies before more detailed assessment of new grid project could be transferred to a Chinese context
  4. The challenges regarding grid planning and grid development in Europe and China are quite similar and mutual exchange of experience and solution would be benificial.

Find the presentation here: RE_integration_July_2012


Wind energy status in China

My good friend, Jiang Liping, Vice president at State Grid Energy Research Institute, has an excellent blog with reflections on the development of energy in China. Recently she published an article which gives a status and prospects for wind energy in China. The article is written by leading wind energy experts and it gives a comprehensive overview of the development of wind energy, relevant regulation and support incentives, as well as an overview of current challenges regarding wind power integration. A must-read if you are interested in wind energy development!


My top 5 list for wind power integration in China

30 March 2012 I had the pleasure to give a presentation on integration of renewables at the 2nd Grid Integration China week 2012.

My top 5 priority action list for improving integration of renewables looks like this:

  1. Incentives for a flexible energy system: Flexible thermal power plants, Flexible use of district heating, Better use of interconnectors
  2. Good wind power forecasts integrated in the system dispatch
  3. Reliable wind turbines: Grid code, Testing and certification
  4. New transmission grids
  5. Smart grids

My main point is, that the current challenges in wind power integration in China are linked to the incentives or rather the missing incentives for integration. Neither the dispatch centre nor the power producers have sufficient incentives to do an effort for integration of the electricity from wind power plants. If such incentives were put in place it would be fairly easy to make the existing system more flexible, and no new technology development is needed to ensure integration of up to at least 20 percent wind power into the electricity system. So this is my priority no 1.

If (or when!) these incentives are in place then of course it is very important to have reliable wind power prognoses in order to be able to make the right system dispatch and prepare for the use of regulating units in the operation hour. So good wind power forecast for system dispatch is my priority no 2.

Thirdly the wind farm should be able to enhance the system security, not to lower it. Therefore appropriate grid codes and certification of the wind turbines are essential for the further deployment of wind power. Luckily China recently approved good national grid codes for wind turbines, and certification has high priority.

Fourthly development of the grid is necessary to ensure a larger share of wind power and power from renewables in general. But notice that this in not the first priority. Nevertheless, grid development is a long-term discipline, so grid planning and timely development of the grid is very important, also in the short run.

Finally development of “smart grid” concepts should be promoted. The smart grid do not need to be smart-smart, but especially with focus on the demand side flexibility and the use of electricity for transport and heating require a more advanced information flow about prices to work dynamically. In the long run, the system security would need more advanced control mechanisms to ensure the dynamic security of supply.

You can download my presentation here: RE_integration_March_2012 (2.4 MB).

The presentation gives a short wrap-up of the conclusion from the two recent reports on wind power: the China Wind Energy Development Roadmap 2050, developed by Energy Research Institute and IEA, and the report on Integrated Solution Strategies, developed by SGERI and VESTAS. And a short introduction to China National Renewable Energy Centre :-).