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Clean Power Photo credit: Barton Merle-Smith, Wind Currents

Published on January 29th, 2013 | by Andrew

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Wind Energy Surpasses Nuclear As China’s 3rd Largest Source Of Electrical Power



Wind energy is now China’s third largest source of electricity, according to a report from People’s Daily Online. Wind power generation in China totalled 100.4 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) in 2012, a 0.5% year-on-year increase and surpassing nuclear power generation, according to data presented over the weekend by the China Wind Energy Association (CWEA).

Ambitious state renewable power targets and government support for wind energy manufacturers have fueled rapid development and growth of wind power capacity in China. China had 60.83 GW of installed wind power capacity online as of year-end 2012, according to CWEA. A national target calls for 100 GW of installed capacity by the end of 2015.

The 2% total for 2012 indicates just how fast and far China has progressed in realizing the strategic renewable power goals set out in its latest Five-Year Plan, and just how much it continues to rely on thermal coal and large-scale hydro power to meet its fast-growing demand for electrical power.

Image Source: Barton Merle-Smith, Wind Currents

China Wind Power: Rapid Growth Amid Grid, Market Challenges

In its 12th and latest five-year plan (for 2011–2015), China’s leadership again singled out renewable energy as a key, strategic economic sector targeted to receive even greater attention and support. Aiming to provide “a snapshot of China’s renewable energy market,” consulting firm Solidiance January 8 released a white paper that “demonstrates the challenges and opportunities faced by this important industry.”

The presentation by CWEA also reveals hurdles to bringing wind and other renewable power generation online and on the grid. Though reaching a cumulative record-high in 2012, growth in wind power capacity additions actually slowed to 14 gigawatts (GW) in 2012 from 20.66 GW in 2011, according to data presented by CWEA chairman He Dexin.

He identified wind turbine overcapacity, growing international trade protectionism, grid interconnection challenges, and wind power generation wastage as bottlenecks for bringing additional wind power capacity online.

Nonetheless, CWEA forecasts wind power capacity in China will grow to 18 GW in 2013, as local governments have accelerated approval of wind power generation projects since the beginning of the year. The Development and Reform Commission of Hunan Province on January 9 approved three wind power projects, a total investment of 1.35 billion yuan ($217 million) alone.

Government-led market-oriented reform is needed to address the problem of curtailment, whereby grid-connected wind-generated electricity is held back by grid operators, according to He. Some 20 billion kWh of wind-generated electricity was lost to curtailment in 2012, according to CWEA data.

“Grid companies lack economic incentives to take in more wind power, as government-dictated on-grid wholesale prices of wind power are higher than those of thermal power,” Meng Xian’gan, secretary-general of the China Renewable Energy Society, was quoted as saying.

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About the Author

I've been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.



  • Ivor O’Connor

    Is this 2% in real delivered power or just in theoretical capacity?

  • George Stevens

    With 28 1GW capacity nuclear plants under construction in China currently, and plenty more scheduled to be built, I think it is safe to say that wind energy’s spot ahead of nuclear in total energy production is only temporary.

    • Wayne Williamson

      It will be interesting…they are definitely trying to move away from coal…with over capacity in solar production, I think time will tell.

    • Calamity_Jean

      Don’t count on it. Wind farms are significantly faster to build than nuclear plants. There could be a lot of wind turbines up and running before a nuclear plant started three years ago produces watt #1.
      I expect that wind will increase it’s lead over nuclear, and as of 2012 it has begun to catch up with coal.

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