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China Accounted For 35% Of Global Onshore Wind Capacity

New figures compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance find that China installed 15.9 gigawatts (GW) of wind power in 2012, a number which accounts for 35 percent of the world’s new onshore wind capacity.

Astonishingly this is actually an 18 percent drop from 2011’s record of 19.3 GW, a drop blamed on grid connection issues.

This is the fourth year in a row since 2009 that China has ranked top of newly installed onshore wind capacity when they took the place from the United States. The US installed 13.2GW in 2012, a record figure for the country, but still 14 percent fewer turbines than China.

China Totals One Third Of Global Onshore Wind Installations for 2012

Wind farm in Tianjin, China
Image Source: Nick Cross

Electricity generated by onshore wind has become China’s third-largest energy source behind coal and hydropower, totalling 61 GW of cumulative grid-connected wind energy capacity – 5.3% of the country’s total nameplate – and generating 2% of its total electricity.

“2012 was a good year for the Chinese wind industry, considering how tough the environment was,” commented Demi Zhu, China wind analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “The industry faced many problems including a reluctance by the grid operator to buy all the intermittent electricity produced by wind farms, plus stricter permitting requirements, unpaid subsidies and vigorous government efforts to cool down the industry’s rate of expansion.”

Financial investment for wind energy in China fell by 12 percent to $27.2 billion in 2012 according to data gathered by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, however this has in turn meant that the same dollar amount of investment committed during 2012 financed 10 percent more megawatts than if it had been invested during 2011.

On top of that, Bloomberg New Energy Finance found that a distressing 15 GW was unconnected to the national grid.

“This year however, project approvals have sped up and we forecast a modest recovery in both financing activity and construction in 2013,” Zhu said. 

Looking forward, Bloomberg New Energy Finance are forecasting 16.6 GW of installations for China in 2013, followed by 17 to 18 GW in both 2014 and 2015, rates of increase which would help the Chinese government reach their end-2015 target of 100 GW of grid-connected new energy capacity a year early. In fact, according to GTM Research’s China Wind Market Quarterly, China is likely to shatter that goal by reaching 150 GW by year-end 2015.

“The fact that China wind overtook nuclear as a generation source even in its most challenging year of recent times is a testament to the massive scale and momentum of the industry in this country,” Zhu said. Only 0.7 GW of nuclear was installed during 2012, allowing wind energy to become the third largest source of energy, a figure backed up by the China Wind Energy Association in a new report released late last month.

China is regularly in the news here on Cleantechnica, exceeding new energy installation records and putting to shame industrialised nations. For sure, China has a more immediate problem to solve — a booming population and horrendously pollutant-driven energy generation — and a massive industry to throw at the problem, but it seems to me that nations across the planet could take lessons from the drive behind China’s new energy revolution.

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