12 Nov 2010 11:22

SGCC takes step towards development of China's smart grid

Shanghai. November 12. INTERFAX-CHINA - As China's largest power grid developer and operator, State Grid Corp. of China (SGCC) is keen to see smart grids used in the country. The company has already taken its first step in this area, though work is still at an early stage.

One of the most crucial aspects in preparing for smart grid construction is implementing standards. SGCC has been in the process of stipulating smart grid standards since March 2009, according to Zhang Dongxia, a researcher from China Electric Power Research Institute's (CEPRI) State Grid Simulation Center.

Zhang, who attended the 2nd China Smart Grid Forum in Shanghai on Nov. 9, said SGCC has three departments working on standards along with CEPRI.

There are 92 standards under consideration, with 45 to be completed by the end of this year. The entire process is expected to be finished by 2013.

In 2010, SGCC launched the third bid invitation for the purchase of equipment, including transformers and instrument transformers, for smart grid construction. China Securities Journal reported on Nov. 12 that the company will soon start the fourth bid invitation to purchase smart meters.

The company has also started the construction of several demonstration projects for the large-scale development of smart grids, applying standards agreed to so far.

One of the key advantages of smart grids is their ability to regulate electricity transmission from renewable energy sources, which can be unreliable in generating a consistent supply of power.

Zhang noted that SGCC's subsidiary North China Grid Co. Ltd. is constructing a renewable energy complex in northern Hebei province, integrating wind turbines with 100 megawatt (MW) capacity, a 50 MW solar module and a sodium-sulfur battery (NAS) capable of storing 20 MW.

Combining wind and solar energy production with storage batteries is one option of creating grid-friendly electricity. SGCC has also requested renewable energy producers to stabilize their electricity output.

Chi Yongning, deputy chief engineer of CEPRI's Renewable Energy Department, said at the same conference that SGCC's standards will require wind turbines to be capable of "low voltage ride through" (LVRT), the ability to keep operating even with sudden temporary drops in grid voltage.

Although SGCC is actively researching solutions and technologies related to the smart grid, the company will not develop distributed energy projects in the short term, unlike the smart grid concepts in the U.S. and Europe.

Zhang noted that development of distributed energy projects would erode SGCC's profits, which still depends primarily on income from electricity transmission. Its smart grid strategy is therefore based on long-distance electricity transmission using ultra-high voltage transmission lines.

State subsidies have been limited to SGCC for transmitting electricity generated by renewable energy projects. However, Chi said that the company still regards smart grid development as an opportunity as it can increase transmission of electricity output from large thermal power and hydropower bases in western regions, where numerous wind farms and solar plants are also located.