The world may know China best for its massive consumption of coal and its plume of pollution over the Pacific Ocean.
But today’s China has dramatically expanded its wind power capacity to rank as the world’s largest owner of installed wind capacity. If planned construction deadlines are met, China will end 2011 owning 58 gigawatts (GWs) of installed wind capacity, a number that will expand to as much as 150-230 GWs over the coming decade.
Bottom line, China hopes to derive 15 percent of its power generation from clean energy by 2020.
According to Ivan Castano, writing for Renewable Energy World, China might install up to 18 GWs of wind-power capacity this year alone – new capacity that will be state built and financed.
Wind is likely to lead China’s renewables planning due to its profitability. Renewable Energy World reports that the largest wind developer, Longyuan Power Group, reported its profits had more than doubled over last year to 2 billion Yuan (US $305 million) from 900 million Yuan (US $137 million) the year before. The company said it hopes to install 2 GW of capacity this year, bringing the total it operates to 9 GW.
However, Castano adds that wind power development in China is not without difficulties, including a connection infrastructure. “Longyuan reports around 10 percent of last year’s installed capacity cannot be connected to the network due to grid barriers.” These issues need to be addressed, sooner rather than later.
The investment in wind must also account for the potential of earthquakes, especially with turbine manufacturers set to spend millions to improve their anti-disaster technology in light of Japan’s recent earthquake and tsunami. Japan’s wind industry reportedly survived the tragedy unscathed – due to its anti-quake design – something China is said to lag behind, say insiders. Manufacturers understand China’s vulnerability to earthquakes and tsunamis.
To begin leaving behind a legacy of dirty coal-powered energy and replace parts of it with a renewable infrastructure represents a large first step China is taking that other parts of the world can look at in trying to implement a distributed energy strategy that is both green and cost-effective.