Clean Power China wind turbine

Published on November 30th, 2012 | by Silvio Marcacci


China Forecast To Hit 150 GW Installed Wind Capacity By 2015

November 30th, 2012 by  

China’s wind industry is forecast to reach 150 gigawatts (GW) of installed capacity by 2015 — shattering the central government’s goal of 100 GW by 2015.

China wind turbine

These findings come from the first installment of GTM Research’s China Wind Market Quarterly, released with market analysts Azure International. The report predicts steady government support and rising demand will keep the country far ahead of the renewable energy economies of America, Europe, and India.

While China was not immune to the financial slowdown that has gripped the world in recent years, its clean energy output has boomed in recent years, led by the wind industry. Already the international leader in installed nameplate capacity, China installed 18 GW of new wind capacity – a 40% growth rate from 2011 – to pass 50 GW of grid-connected and more than 70 GW total wind capacity at the end of Q3 2012.


New Installations Gusting Forward

Wind energy keeps growing in China, at an exponential rate. In 2006, it had roughly 3 GW of installed capacity, good for 4% of the global share. Since then, it has reached approximately 35% of installed global capacity – a 25-fold increase, while the rest of the world only expanded by a factor of 2.6.

Current and planned China wind power

The nation shows no signs of slowing down the pace, either. China added 2.9 GW new wind capacity in Q3, and is on track to add another 9 GW in Q4 to reach 80 GW total capacity. China consumed 50.4 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of wind power in the first six months of 2012, currently supplies a quarter of all wind energy supplied to the grid worldwide, and will soon become the largest wind energy generator of any country in the world.

Curtailment’s Strong Headwinds

However, wind’s rapid expansion has come with problems. Growth has been concentrated in several northern and western provinces, with Inner Mongolia boasting twice the capacity of the next highest province, Hebei.

Like in many parts of the U.S., these regions with massive generation potential are sparsely populated, cannot absorb all the locally generated wind power, and see their wind farms subjected to curtailment when generation outstrips grid needs and transmission capacity.

The issue is arguably the highest hurdle for China to clear in realizing its full potential. Curtailment is caused by challenges like limited local demand, undersized transmission infrastructure, inflexible coal-baseload generation, and wind cycles that often run counter to demand.

Wind curtailment in China

The three highest-generating regions of the country all experienced more than 22 percent of generation curtailed from 2009-2011. And, in 2011, 15 terawatt-hours (TWh) of wind power were curtailed – 17% of all generation and an economic loss of RMB 5 billion (about $802 million).

Even though China is planning the world’s most ambitious grid upgrade and Inner Mongolia began a power exchange to replace local coal generation with wind, GTM forecasts curtailment issues are likely to persist.

Two Growth Jetstreams: Rising Demand and Constant Government Support

Regardless of nagging curtailment issues, China’s wind growth is remarkable, and an output of unique circumstances: skyrocketing demand and consistent (if inefficient) government support at the national and local level.

China’s electricity demand has mirrored the country’s economic rise, growing 15 times higher than 1980s levels. The government forecasts demand to rise from 5 trillion kWh in 2012 to over 8 trillion kWh in 2020. Rising power demand means more demand for wind turbines – especially along the densely populated coastal regions, which expect to install 3 GW of offshore wind by 2015.

China government wind installation targets

Government policies have been nothing if not ambitious. Wind installation targets have been a part of China’s five-year development plans since 2000, laws mandate the grid must accept all power from renewable generation, feed-in tariffs have been functioning since 2009, businesses receive a 50% discount on the value-added tax of wind-generated electricity, and seven provinces have wind generation targets and local feed-in tariffs.

No Windbreakers In Sight

Ultimately, while China’s wind energy industry faces notable challenges, GTM’s report finds the sheer volume of projects in the development pipeline and scale of demand means the country will lead the world far into the future. “China’s wind industry retains its leadership position worldwide, whether looking at policy targets, overall installation numbers or innovation,” said Scott Clavenna, CEO of Greentech Media.

Image Credits: China wind turbine image via Shutterstock; All charts and graphs courtesy GTM Research

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About the Author

Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate policy public relations company based in Oakland, CA.

  • mishasibirsk

    “Clean energy”

    Unfortunately, this term, if used without comment, invites suspicion. I chased one chain of links through to “Maryland Clean Energy…” It turns out that they use the term as it should be able to be understood if it hadn’t been discoloured by unsightly yellow (cake) patches courtesy of the Chinese Communist Party, which has an idea that it can re-educate the international environmental movement about how it should think of “clean.” I found that the Marylanders explicitly contrast clean with nuclear.That would correspond with precepts of most who would consider themselves environmentally motivated.

    Most, or at least a growing minority of those same are by now on guard against the bizarre attempt of the CCP, a dictatorship, to foist its reframed terminology onto a free market of ideas. At least the linked source, a Clean Technica colleague, does indicate, though without comment, that China’s talk about clean energy includes nuclear. If Clean Technica is not getting any pecuniary encouragement from China to to attempt to palm off its wolfish thinking in sheep’s clothing, it would do well to be wary of uncritically passing on whatever the PR arm of a fascist regime churns out.

    None of that, of course, in any way seeks to detract from the seriously impressive development of RE in China, under same said fascist regime.

  • Matthew

    How many jobs were created in china from this? And, on a per capita basis, what would that translate to for the United States if we did the same thing?

  • anderlan

    150GWpeak will still be only about 4-5% of .CN electricity consumption averaged per year. Quadruple that by 2020 with solar adding another 5+ percent and things will just be getting started.
    Pray and pay for technological improvements. Bet on economies of scale. Decommission coal and use gas only for peaking (requires legal mandate (plus party discipline in China)), increase storage among customers and in grid. Continue this process for 20 more years.

  • Wind turbine arms is the arms raise we should be trying to win. Much better pay back than military arms to protect oil fields in Middle East.

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