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400.000 solar panels are already installed. The area spans 200 hectares, once finishined it will be eight times bigger.

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.

Ting Ting Xu, Head of Photovoltaics at TÜV NORD
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The security of the circuit points has first priority, because otherwise the risk of electric shocks and fire is high.

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

Since October 2015, China has been helping its neighbours to make use of this “heavenly gold”. In the desert near Bahawalpur in Punjab Province in the south of Pakistan, the Chinese high-tech company Zonergy is currently building the Quaid-e-Azam solar park. When completed, it should have a capacity of 900 Megawatts per year. The first 100-Megawatt installation was already complete after three months and has undergone final inspection by TÜV NORD. The plant comprises 400,000 solar modules covering an area of 200 hectares, which corresponds to an area one kilometre wide and two kilometres long. Once the entire solar park is finished, it will consist of 5.2 million solar modules – in other words, it will reach eight times its present size. Then Pakistan will have its first solar park – and the second largest in the world.

 

 

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.

Multifaceted support

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.

 

 

The new Silk Route

The 10,000 kilometre long trade link between China and Europe, which – via a land and sea route – was a means of trading gold and precious stones alongside silk into the 13th century, and also of exchanging religious and cultural ideas, is experiencing a renaissance. In May 2014 a 5,000 kilometre long section of the Silk Route which lies in Asia was granted the status of a UNESCO world heritage site. At the same time, the Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the launch of the “New Silk Route” project, which also links China and Europe via a land and sea route. However, this does not end at the Mediterranean Sea but leads to Venice via Moscow, Duisburg and Rotterdam. This is where the sea route, which also includes Nairobi in Kenya ends. The background is that: China wants to strengthen its links with Europe, its most important trading partner, and to create new transportation routes for its exports. The idea is to make energy supplies more secure. Pipelines from Pakistan, Burma and Turkmenistan bring natural gas and oil to China, which means that China is less dependent on oil from Russia and the Arabian Peninsula. The solar park in Pakistan can be seen as one project within the New Silk Route undertaking.