The energy of the future is limitless, for example in the form of sunlight. The second largest solar park in the world is currently under construction in Pakistan – built with high tech from China, and maintained and certified by TÜV NORD.
Allthough you might not believe it from the air quality in Beijing, China is the largest producer of renewable energy in the world. In 2014 the country invested around 76.6 billion euros in electricity generation from wind, water, biomass and sunlight – almost one third of the total global investment in this area, which was just under 250 billion euros.
China is working on improving the efficiency of photovoltaics, and this trend will continue for a long time.
Besides clean energy, China needs markets for its power plants, wind turbines and solar collectors. With its concept of “One Belt, One Road”, the country is strengthening its trade partnerships along the New Silk Route (see box on page 24), initiated by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2014. One such trading partner is Pakistan, a country that has suffered considerable energy problems for many years, and where industry and agriculture are held back by power failures which can last for hours. But fortunately there are sources of energy are available – above all, sunlight.
Valuable heavenly gold
The quality of the electricity must be right
“The cooperation began in October 2015, and in December, we completed the safety inspection for the first of the nine solar installations. We‘re currently testing the performance capacity”, says Ting Ting Xu, Head of Photovoltaics at TÜV NORD in China. The solar farm construction is in many respects a pilot project. The safety requirements are immense – and TÜV NORD is responsible for ensuring that they are met. The inspections are carried out in several stages. And safety is the top priority, as Ting Ting Xu explains: “We have just carried out the final inspection before the first 50-Megawatt installation goes on stream.” There are areas with high and medium voltage, and also relay protection devices. The voltage that leaves the power plant must be adapted to the local electricity network, and if the installations are defective, fires or dangerous electric shocks could result.
And another thing: the power generated in the desert must be transported over large distances before it is used. This can also lead to voltage fluctuations, and in the worst case, the local electricity network could be threatened with collapse. Both the amount of energy that is fed in and its quality must fulfil the highest standards. “It is essential to ensure that the quality of the energy produced is compatible with the local conditions”, explains Ting Ting Xu.
In addition to the final inspection, several TÜV NORD inspectors assess the different stages of construction and provide technical support. They check the quality of the concrete that is used, the depth of the cable shafts and the material strength of the individual components. As Ting Ting Xu says: “The design lifetime of the total installation is 25 years – and the quality requirements for the individual elements employed in its construction are correspondingly high.”
The second important aspect of the TÜV NORD inspection work concerns the performance capability of the installations. Ting Ting Xu: “The rays of the sun that strike the photovoltaic panels cannot be completely transformed into energy. The process of energy generation involves numerous stages and losses occur at each stage.” In order to increase the efficiency of the installation, the losses have to be minimised. Inspections, tests and documentation in the area of direct current have to comply with certain standards. At the photovoltaic site itself, TÜV NORD China is testing the polarity, insulation and earthing connections and undertaking operational testing of the various photovoltaic modules. “As soon as we have completed these tests, we will develop proposals for the optimisation of the installation. We want to help Zonergy to increase the profitability of its power generation operations”, says the TÜV NORD photovoltaics specialist.
Pioneers in Pakistan
Together, Zonergy and TÜV NORD are acting as pioneers in Pakistan. TÜV NORD is not only the chosen partner for the construction, installation and maintenance of the solar park. The experts from the inspection company are also supporting the Chinese high-tech construction company with the approval process for the Pakistani authorities. The requirements to be met are strict. As an independent service provider, TÜV NORD has the relevant information from all the different phases of the project and places this at the disposal of the authorities. “We need some time for this, as we have to get to know the specific procedures in Pakistan. But the next projects will be faster”, says Ting Ting Xu. And it is safe to assume that there will be more projects in the future. “China is working on improving the efficiency of photovoltaics, and this trend will continue for a long time.” Instead of silk and gold, today it is high-tech from China that is being carried through the Middle East towards Europe.