China has shown it can build wind farms, but can it connect them economically to the grid?Seeking to rein in its emissions of greenhouse gases, China is on an ambitious spending spree in wind power. The government is working on plans to shell out 1 trillion yuan ($146 billion) to build seven massive wind farms with a combined capacity of more than 120 gigawatts, roughly equal to the world’s total installed wind power plants last year.
in 2008. Yet, about 30% of its wind power assets are not in use–much
of that not even connected to the transmission grid–a result of
Chinese power companies turning to wind as the cheapest, easiest way to
satisfy on paper government requirements to boost renewable energy
capacity. Whether the massive new building push will be any more
efficient is an open question, given that much of it is slated for out
of the way places, mainly in the north, making it uneconomical to build
the lengthy extensions to China’s grid that would be required to
transmit the power to distant population centers.
China has been actively developing wind energy over the past three
years. The country added 6.3 gW of capacity in 2008, doubling its total
wind power capacity to 12.2 gW, in the process becoming the world’s
second-biggest wind turbine buyer behind the U.S. and the world’s
fourth-biggest producer of wind power after the U.S., Germany and
Spain, according to the annual report of the World Wind Energy
In July, the government of the arid northwestern
province of Gansu began construction of a wind power station in the
former Silk Road outpost of Jiuquan, the first of seven 10-gW wind
power bases planned by provincial authorities around the country. The
other six have yet to receive the green light from the country’s top
planning authority, the National Development and Reform Commission.
estimates China’s wind power capacity could easily grow to 130 gW by
2020. “Yet, the most important question is whether wind energy in China
is efficient,” said Pierre Lau, Head of Asia-Pacific Utilities Research
So far, the answer has been “no.”
world’s largest producer of carbon emissions has been doubling its wind
power capacity every year since 2006; it was the world’s second-largest
buyer of wind turbines
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