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A harsh lesson for Korea’s wind power industry?

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The current Texas ice storm, which froze wind generators and prompted huge blackouts, sparked a heated debate on the efficacy of wind energy in the USA — a debate that has spilled over to South Korea because it plans to construct the largest wind farm on the earth.

Final week, the ice storm in Texas left thousands and thousands of individuals with out energy after wind generators froze. Important gear at gasoline wells and nuclear energy vegetation was additionally affected.

In accordance with the Electrical Reliability Council of Texas, when electrical energy demand peaked at greater than 69 gigawatts throughout the storm, the state misplaced 16 gigawatts from renewable vitality sources, largely wind; and 30 gigawatts from thermal sources, which embody gasoline, coal and nuclear vitality.

Whereas politicians on the left and proper are butting heads over whether or not wind energy was the primary offender within the blackout, the case has prompted heated debate on the efficacy of wind energy — particularly throughout pure disasters.

Korea, too, might discover itself dealing with the identical dilemma down the highway.

The Atmosphere Ministry on Monday put collectively an unique job drive that may perform an environmental evaluation earlier than increasing the nation’s wind energy technology capacities.

The motion was a follow-up to President Moon Jae-in’s vow on Feb. 5 to inject 48.5 trillion received ($43.5 billion) right into a mission to construct the world’s greatest wind farm within the waters off Sinan County, South Jeolla Province, close to Mokpo, by 2030.

The 8.2-gigawatt wind farm, as soon as accomplished, will likely be greater than seven instances larger than England’s 1.12-gigawatt Hornsea wind farm, the world’s greatest offshore wind farm as of final 12 months.

The catch is that the positioning of Korea’s deliberate wind farm stands within the typical path of the typhoons that hit the western and southern components of the nation each summer season.

Final 12 months Hurricane Bavi tore by way of the resort island of Jeju and different areas within the southern a part of the nation, attaining wind speeds of 43 meters per second. When the storm reached the waters close to Mokpo, it was transferring north at 30 kilometers per hour.

“When Bavi hit Jeju final 12 months, all 41 of the wind generators in operation needed to be shut down both robotically or manually. To guard the generators, when the wind velocity reaches between 20 and 25 meters per second, they must be shut down. Although none of them had been broken final 12 months, when a stronger storm got here in 2016, the blades of the wind generators had been really bent and gnarled,” an official from Jeju Vitality Corp. mentioned.

The official added that shutdowns of wind generators don’t immediately set off blackouts. Primarily based on climate forecasts, thermal energy vegetation could make preparations prematurely and compensate for shutdowns by ramping up electrical energy technology. However Jeju suffered intensive blackouts in 2016 because the highly effective storm broken transmission towers, disconnecting thermal vegetation from energy grids.

Consultants, nonetheless, waved away considerations about blackouts, saying that even when a storm had been to take down the 8.2-gigawatt wind farm in Sinan, regionwide or nationwide blackouts can be unlikely.

“The blackout in Texas occurred as a result of wind generates about 20 % of the electrical energy there. The Sinan wind farm will solely account for a small fraction of Korea’s electrical energy technology, so there’s no want to fret, for now,” mentioned a authorities official from the wind energy division of South Jeolla Province.

As soon as it’s accomplished in 2030, the precise technology capability of the 8.2-gigawatt Sinan wind farm will likely be about 1.9 gigawatts, contemplating that the typical operation fee of offshore wind farms is about 24 %, in response to Kang Seung-jin, a professor at Korea Polytechnic College’s vitality graduate faculty.

Merely put, 1.9 gigawatts of the Sinan wind farm will account for just one.5 % of the nation’s precise technology capability of 122.4 gigawatts in 2030, in response to the federal government’s official vitality blueprint for the years 2020-2034.

“Even when a storm takes out the 1.5 %, Korea could have a backup technology capability of twenty-two % (in 2029-2034). Pure gasoline can all the time present backup for the Sinan wind farm if it fails,” mentioned a senior researcher from the Korea Vitality Economics Institute.

Nonetheless, Individuals Energy Occasion Rep. Kim Younger-sik mentioned mechanical points nonetheless stick with the Sinan wind farm.

In accordance with Kim, Korea’s common marine wind velocity is 7 meters per second, however there’s a vital hole between quick and sluggish wind speeds. Kim argues that this hole can set off “energy swings” and put the soundness of the nation’s electrical energy provide in danger.

When wind blows at inconsistent speeds, the quantity of electrical energy that wind farms generate oscillates, inflicting disturbances in voltages and currents. Final 12 months, Jeju Island halted the operation of its wind farms on 70 events as a result of energy swing points.

Kim cited a case in Japan. After the 2011 nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, the Japanese authorities put in three big wind generators value 60 billion yen ($56.8 million) mixed to interchange the failed nuclear energy plant. But as a result of low profitability and fixed mechanical issues, the Japanese authorities eliminated one turbine in June and plans to dismantle the opposite two beginning in April.

“Wind generators carry out finest when wind velocity is constant. Nonetheless, the facility swing points will be solved through the use of superior generators developed in Denmark, Germany or Norway. Home wind generators made by Doosan Heavy Industries & Building, for instance, have a big technological hole with European ones and aren’t geared up to unravel the facility swing points,” the KEEI official mentioned.

“Korea can both watch for Doosan to meet up with international leaders or buy foreign-made generators at larger costs.”

Doosan Heavy goals to develop an 8-megawatt offshore wind turbine by 2022, whereas Denmark’s Vestas started testing its 15-megawatt turbine Feb. 10.

Nonetheless, buying wind generators from overseas suppliers might restrict job creation within the home wind energy trade and defeat the aim of Moon’s Inexperienced New Deal initiative, which goals to strengthen the nation’s social security web and guarantee regular employment alternatives.

“The federal government can’t drive companies to make use of Korean-made wind generators or components for the development of the Sinan wind farm as a result of such a coverage would violate worldwide guidelines set by the World Commerce Group.

Nonetheless, when overseas gamers enter Korea, the federal government can implicitly strain them to make use of home components as an admission charge for doing enterprise in Korea. Taiwan, for instance, designated sure components and pressured Orsted to make use of them when the Danish wind energy firm entered the Taiwanese market to develop offshore wind farms there,” mentioned an official from the Korea Wind Vitality Trade Affiliation.

By Kim Byung-wook (kbw@heraldcorp.com)

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