Jiuquan, “a ‘prefecture-level city’ in the westernmost part of the Gansu province in China,” now has 6 GW (6,000 MW) of wind power capacity (approximately the same wind power capacity of the entire UK). By 2015, the city intends to triple that wind power capacity, and it plans to increase capacity to 40 GW by 2020. As part of this, the world’s biggest wind farm may soon be in Jiuquan.
China, as a whole, is building a mind-blowing 36 wind turbines a day, on average. The Gansu region (and the city of Jiuquan, in particular) is a core wind development area. I think the growth is really hard to even imagine.
Even faster renewable energy growth is expected from 2020 to 2030, when the region will be installing much more solar power.
China’s Dirty Energy Side
I am one of countless global citizens who are thankful for China’s surging clean energy investments. But I’m also one who thinks you need to keep in mind the “everything is relative” adage. China isn’t only pumping billions and billions into clean energy — it’s also pumping billions and billions into dirty energy.
China is now the world’s biggest CO2 emitter (nevermind that many of its emissions come from factories pumping out products for more developed countries). Aside from the 36 or so wind turbines it is building per day, it’s also building 400 MW worth of coal-fired power every three days. Yikes!
Jonathan Watts of the UK’s Guardian writes: “If environmental damage were fully factored into the state’s account books, China’s economic growth rate would probably be halved, Wang Yuqing – the former deputy director of the state environmental protection ministry – warned this week. He estimated environmental damage last year at about 2.5tn yuan (£250bn), or 5-6% of China’s GDP.”
China Shifting to Clean Energy (Slowly)
Jiuquan is representative of a (slow) switch away from dirty energy and towards clean energy, though. Jiuquan was once an oil rich area, China’s oil fountain. But oil production peaked there long ago, and it has shifted its focus to wind now. “Investments in wind and solar are now more than 40bn yuan a year in the region, he said, compared to about 1bn yuan for oil and coal combined.”
In the long term, aside from the threats of dirty energy, there just isn’t a lot of it compared to renewable energy sources.
“By 2030, I think China will get half its energy from renewable resources and Jiuquan will be famous around the world,” Wu Shengxue, director of Jiuquan’s reform and development department, says. ”People here are going to be rich.”
In this region, average urban incomes have approximately tripled since the year 2000. They are expected to be higher than the national average by 2015.
Despite this rapid growth of clean energy, coal also marches on. It actually increased its share of China’s national energy supply to a staggering 72% last year. Looks like China is, to an optimist, going the “2 steps forward, one step back” route.
On a positive note, as Susan wrote a couple weeks ago, China is looking to put a cap on coal use by 2015.
I'm the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular clean energy website in the world, and Planetsave, a leading green and science news site. I've been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and I've been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, bicycling, and wind energy for the past few years. You can also find my work on Scientific American, Reuters, Think Progress, GE's ecomagination site, several sites in the Important Media network, & many other places. To connect on your favorite social network, go to: zacharyshahan.com