We are used to the news of how China surpasses any other country in economic indicators. Usually, we hear this information in terms of numbers and charts. However, there is no real perception of the development pace. This September, I had an opportunity to see the progress that China achieved in power systems.
The statistics would tell us that the total installed capacity of China is reaching 2 TW, which is eight times more than the capacity of Russia (250 GW). This is a huge difference that makes the two power systems hardly comparable. However, one might say that this difference happened simply because of the population growth in China, and therefore, the power systems should be similar/comparable. After visiting the Global Energy Interconnection Forum in Beijing, I might state that this is not the case. The key difference lies in technologies. The State Grid Corporation of China operates more than ten 1.000 kV ultra high voltage (UHV) lines. It is also working on the 1.100 kV and 1.250 kV projects. Such lines allow transmitting gigawatts of power for thousands of kilometers with no significant power losses. For example, Russia still does not have transmission lines in operation with voltage levels higher than 750 kV.
A related article with more details was published in IEEE Spectrum: https://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/the-smarter-grid/chinas-ambitious-plan-to-build-the-worlds-biggest-supergrid
Having world-class power transmission technologies and experience, China launched an ambitious company of promoting international power interconnections. The State Grid Corporation of China created a separate organization GEIDCO (Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organization) that works on developing optimal power interconnections projects worldwide. Such interconnections would enable transmitting cheap and clean power from distant energy sources to the load centers: https://en.geidco.org/aboutgei/
I was impressed by how well organized the Forum went. It is seen that GEIDCO has significant fundings. Even though the company itself does not yield profit, but only promotes power interconnection projects.
The most interesting part of the event started right after the forum when the guests were taken to the UHV test base in Hebei province. We were shown how the UHV equipment was being developed, manufactured, and tested. It was not allowed to take pictures inside the factory. I remember that the testing rooms were about 25 meters high, and the UHV equipment was enormously large. The photos below were taken near the factory. The testing yards were also looking impressive and futuristic.
After the UHV base tour, we moved back to Beijing to visit the State Grid dispatch lab. I am not sure was this the real lab or just a showroom for visitors. Anyway, this was the most modern lab that I have ever been to. The design makes you feel as in a spaceship. All the equipment looks super new. A giant dispatcher panel shows real-time parameters of the entire Chinese power system.
Why do I have doubts that this is a real lab? ?
1) There were very few people actually working in the lab.
2) I asked the guide is it possible to visit the lab later or undertake an internship. He could not give me proper explanations.
In any case, an interesting and impressive place.
The dinner at the famous Chinese rotating tables:
While walking in the city, I noticed similarities between Moscow and Beijing. The architecture of some buildings reminds soviet style. And the streets are wide enough that makes it possible to enjoy the view at different locations. I would say that Beijing was designed to have wide spaces. The parks and squares are able to accommodate thousands of people and tourists.
The forum and the Beijing trip impressed me. It seems that if Chinese people start doing something, they do it right. The newly created GEIDCO brings together thousands of investors and researchers even without ongoing projects of power interconnections and revenue. The State Grid Corporation of China creates modern UHV factories and hi-tech despatch labs that look attractive from any point.
I wish I would speak Chinese one day to better understand how the country achieves such amazing results.
A bunch of souvenirs for my parents:
Andrey Churkin (Андрей Чуркин) 2017