Innovative solution tackles a gritty threat to China’s transmission network

Wed, 2015-04-15 06:00 -- Doug Peeples

The sandstorms created by strong winds flowing through Inner Mongolia blow ever-shifting sand dunes eastward toward cities. The problem is that Inner Mongolia Power Group’s transmission lines provide Beijing with about a sixth of its power, and the huge mounds of sand threaten the utility’s transmission network.

The shifting sand can do substantial damage, collapsing power poles and generally threatening electric infrastructure and potentially disrupting power delivery. It also harms local agricultural lands and stirs up air pollution.

A sustainable (and effective) solution
Council Associate Partner ABB – a global leader in power and automation technology with an established presence in China -- hit upon a natural solution to a natural problem with its anti-desertification program. The program began in 2007 and involves massive plantings of trees and grass as sand barriers.

The innovative solution has successfully slowed the encroaching sand dunes to protect the transmission network and grazing land on the windy Ordos Plateau located about 466 miles west of Beijing.

ABB and the Ordos Bureau of Electric Power contributed about $640,000 for the project which covers 223 hectares (551 acres). And ABB provided support to the China Green Foundation for the program, which was used to buy seeds and hire the workers needed to plant them.

The results
In addition to the obvious benefit – fewer power outages – the program also means network equipment needs less maintenance. Also, the corridor of grasses provides additional forage for local herdsmen, allowing them to earn additional income.

ABB’s contribution did not go unrecognized. A year after the program began, the company was cited as the “2008 Excellent Example of Multinational Company’s Corporate Social Responsibility” and was named among China’s greenest 100 companies in 2013 and 2014 for its environmental protection work.

ABB has also played a more traditional role in China by assisting the country in its efforts to develop a sustainable strategy to cope with growing urbanization. ABB provided converters, generators, substations and transformers for the country’s land-based and offshore wind farms and provided power for companies producing materials for its solar panel industry.ABB also provided what is said to be the world’s first commercial ultra-high voltage DC transmission link to transmit hydroelectric power to Shanghai, the country’s top commercial and industrial center.

Learn more in the video.



Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.