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China is building a national electricity grid

Super Grid 1

Like the US, China wants a national electricity grid. Unlike the US, China’s just building it. Vox,  by  on March 30, 2016,   Wind and sunlight are often concentrated in sparsely populated, remote areas. Getting wind and solar power to the population centers where it’s needed involves building long-distance power lines. Lots of them.

Earlier this week I wrote about a new long-distance power line in the US and the long, slow path it took to win approval. It was proposed in 2009; construction is expected to begin next year and finish in 2020. Like everything involving electricity in the US, it had to navigate a skein of overlapping jurisdictions, multiple state and local authorities, and federal rules. Every landowner and stakeholder had their say.

 So I chuckled when I ran across this Reuters headline yesterday: “China pushes for mandatory integration of renewable power.” That’s the other way to do it!

Like the US, China aspires to build a comprehensive national grid that can carry energy from where it’s generated to where it’s needed. Unlike the US, China isn’t forcing each piece of that system to go through a Byzantine series of bespoke processes and reviews. It’s just building, building, building like crazy.

China’s renewable energy is bottled up

China has the same problem the US does: Its most concentrated wind and sunlight are found in remote areas (in the north and west), distant from the populous industrial cities where the power is needed (in eastern coastal regions).

For years, the government has pushed a rapid buildout of renewable energy; the country now boasts the highest renewable energy growth rates and the most wind and solar capacity of any country in the world.

But now it has, at least temporarily, overbuilt. In those energy-dense regions, there is more wind and solar capacity than there is transmission to carry it. So a lot of that power is going unused.

 The energy-nerd term for power plants being cut back or shut down, even when they are capable of producing energy, is “curtailment.” Grid operators curtail the incoming flood of wind and solar energy when they don’t have the grid capacity to handle it……….

China’s transmission lines will be big, and hooking up wind and solar will be mandatory

Because everything is bigger in China, the country is not building mere high-voltage transmission lines, like those being built (slowly) in the US. It’s building ultra high-voltage (UHV) lines.

By way of comparison: The US Plains & Eastern Clean Line, the high-voltage direct-current line from Oklahoma to Tennessee I wrote about the other day, will run at about 600 kilovolts, give or take. UHV lines run at 800kV, even up to 1000kV.

Building a countrywide grid is one of the government’s top priorities. According to Reuters, “China currently has 17 UHV transmission lines in operation or under construction.”…………

April 1, 2016 - Posted by | China, ENERGY, renewable

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