In March 2013, the National Energy Administration (NEA) of China issued a Notice to urge development of wind-to-heat projects in northern China. This practice aims to reduce the waste of wind power and cut emissions from the coal-fired central heating system. Experiments have been carried out and the approach is going to be scaled up, but further innovations are needed to really shake the dominance of coal.

The niche for large-scale wind-to-heat

Figure 1. China’s installed wind power generation capacity, and average operation hours of the turbines from different sources (click image to enlarge graph).

According to the Chinese Wind Energy Association (CWEA), China’s total installed capacity of wind power jumped to 75.3 gigawatt (GW) by the end of 2012, while the annual installed capacity was 13 GW, nearly 27percent lower than that of 2011 (See Figure 1). This may reflect bottlenecks, such as growing wind curtailment, faced by the industry.

Since 2010, the operating hours of wind turbines have been decreasing (See Figure 1). Combined with growing generation capacity, wind curtailment in 2012 reached 20,000 gigawatt hours(GWh), nearly doubled the curtailed production of 2011.

Jilin Province is a region with one of the highest curtailment rates. Winter nights see high wind speed but low electricity demand, and the local grid’s flexibility for peak electricity management is limited. As a result, wind farms in Jilin Province, which have a total generation capacity of 3.3 GW, were generating for only 1,420 hours in 2012. This was much lower than the industry-adopted economic minimum of 1,900 hours.

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China, coal, curtailed wind, heating, renewable energy, wind power, wind-to-heat