The tapping potential
According to the World Bank (WB) research, Vietnam was found out as a country with the largest wind resource potential, surpassing other Southeast Asian countries including Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. The country’s potential of wind energy was estimated to be around 513,360 megawatts(MW), approximately six folds higher than the forecasted capacity of the electricity sector by 2020. The WB’s study showed that 8.6 per cent of the total land area in Vietnam has very high potential for the development of large wind energy farms, while the figures for Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand are 0.2, 2.9, and 0.2 per cent, respectively.
Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency (IEA) projects that onshore wind would be one of quickest alternative sources of energy to develop, compared to other targeted sources like supercritical coal, geothermal and nuclear power plants. Wind is produced by the uneven heating of the earth’s surface by the sun. As long as the sun shines, there will always be wind, and therefore, an energy source.
According to data released by the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT), a total of 50 wind farm projects have been registered in Vietnam, but only four with the total installed capacity of 159.2MW are generating commercially.
Construction of Cong Ly Construction-Trade-Tourism Company’s Bac Lieu Wind Farm – the biggest among the four operating wind farms in Vietnam - started on September 9, 2010. The offshore wind farm in the Mekong Delta province of Bac Lieu, has 62 turbines, with the total capacity of 99.2MW, and an output of 320 million kWh per year. The project has a total area of 1,300 hectares with the total investment of VND5.2 trillion ($233.2 million) which comes from the investor’s pocket and government’s funds. The first phase started operation in May 2013, contributing 16MW to the national grid. In January 2016, all 62 turbines have been installed and put to use.
Second, Tuy Phong Wind Farm by Vietnam Renewable Energy in the central province of Binh Thuan started operation with 20 turbines and a combined capacity of 30MW in 2012.
Also in Binh Thuan, the $17-million Phu Quy Wind Farm, which was invested by PetroVietnam Power Renewable Energy Limited Company (PV Power RE - a PV Power subsidiary), has three turbines with a combined capacity of 6MW. It came into operation in July 2012.
The most recent addition to the national grid was Phu Lac Wind Farm invested by Thuan Binh Wind Power in Binh Thuan with a capacity of 24MW and the investment capital of VND1 trillion ($44.8 million). The plant started operation in September this year.
It is certainly seen that Vietnam’s wind energy has not been tapped to its full potential. According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s Energy General Department, under the country’s latest revised power development master plan, Vietnam’s total wind power capacity would increase to 800MW by 2020, 2,000MW by 2025, and 6,000MW by 2030.
Technology: key to the dream
While Vietnam is in the early stages of wind power development, the world is making big strides ahead. According to the Global Wind Energy Council headquartered in Brussels, as of the end of 2015, the total global wind power capacity was 432.42GW, up 17 per cent on-year and, for the first time in history, higher than that of nuclear energy. It is notable that many big companies in the world are investing in developing wind power technology.
GE is one of these companies. By 2016, the company has invested $2 billion into research and development in the field and has obtained capabilities to meet customers’ demands, be it for turbines, wind farms, or grid solutions.
It all starts with GE’s Digital Wind Farm. The Digital Wind Farm ecosystem begins with the wind farms themselves. Because the wind whips around the turbines and terrain in unique ways, GE Renewable Energy has developed technology that creates a digital twin of each turbine to model how to get the most energy out of a given landscape before planting the iron in the earth. The approach could improve a farm’s energy production by as much as 20 per cent and generate $100 million of value over the lifetime of a 100MW farm.
Plus, with its patented turbine technology, GE can be the game-changer companies are looking for: the carbon fibre blades make for quieter, lighter, and more efficient operation.
GE technology can help operate, monitor, maintain, and optimise wind power plants. The WindSCADA system allows an accessible view into the plant’s performance thanks to plant and turbine-level output heat displays. It allows operators to control turbines remotely and share data beyond the site as well as to identify performance variations through advanced analysis and reporting.
On the other hand, the PulsePoint software helps analyse drive-train vibration data and detect SCADA data anomalies. It can help operators save more than 10 per cent on annual maintenance costs through avoiding repair costs, decreasing downtime, and increasing lifecycle output.
GE monitors plants through remote operations centres. At the moment, GE is monitoring 8,500 operating turbines over the world, saving an average $7,000 on troubleshooting per turbine per year. The average return to service time for faulty turbines is 6 minutes. With these technologies, GE enables operators to manage their wind farms like a conventional power plant.
At the moment, GE has deployed more than 30,000 wind turbines with the combined capacity of 50GW in 35 countries.
Some parts of GE’s wind turbines have been produced in Vietnam. GE’s Vietnamese wind turbine production plant in Nomura Industrial Zone in the northern port city of Haiphong is one of its most modern plants in the world. The main product of the plant is the 60Hz wind turbine generator which, along with other wind power equipment, is exported to the North American market. The facility has an output of 1,000-1,500 generators per year and it produces 50Hz wind turbine generators for local use.
Springboard for Vietnam
Vietnam has the chance to accelerate wind power development as GE has brought in technologies as part of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with MoIT.
The MoU was signed in May this year on the occasion of US President Barack Obama’s visit to Vietnam. GE will utilise its global wind development expertise and work with local developers to identify potential projects. Furthermore, the group will support the implementation of Vietnam’s national target programme through local manufacturing of wind turbine equipment and components at GE’s Haiphong facility, plus collaboration with other local suppliers.
The ultimate purpose of both parties, accordingly, is to develop a minimum of 1,000MW of new wind farms by 2025. This represents enough energy to power the equivalent of approximately 1.8 million Vietnamese homes.
A part of the MoU has been implemented in September this year with GE signing a cooperation agreement with renewable energy producer Mainstream Renewable Power to develop wind power plants in Vietnam.
Immediately responding to the agreement, in mid-November, these two big players in the global renewable energy signed a cooperation agreement with Phu Cuong Group to jointly develop, build, and operate Phu Cuong Power Plant in the Mekong Delta province of Soc Trang.
The project is located just off the coast with a planned capacity up to 800MW and in the first phase, the project is going to have a capacity of 150-200MW. The developer is going to finish arranging the finances for the first phase in 2018.
Besides wind power, GE expects to bring other technologies to Vietnam too. Jérôme Pécresse, president and CEO of GE Renewable Energy, said that the company can help Vietnam in a multitude of areas, including wind power development, national grid connectivity and management to ensure the grid operates more stably even in periods when wind power is not available.