Much has been made of China’s meteoric wind energy installation figures over the past few years, seeing them top the charts of wind installed at over 90 GW. However, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), just because China has the most wind energy installed does not mean they are producing the most wind energy — a title AWEA believes should go to the US.
According to AWEA, measuring how much total electricity is generated and delivered is “a better measure” of a country’s wind energy performance.
For 2013, according to recent reports by the International Energy Agency and the Global Wind Energy Council, China delivered just under 138 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of wind energy.
The US, on the other hand, according to the American Wind Energy Association and the US Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration, produced over 167 billion kWh — more than 20% over that of China.
“This confirms what many in the wind industry have thought for some time: that by the important measure of energy delivered to the grid, the United States is the # 1 wind energy producer in the world,” writes James Walker, a member of AWEA.
No one is going to disagree with AWEA on this one, as the figures speak for themselves. America is generating and delivering more wind energy than China is. However, the question is raised just how much AWEA is splitting hairs in an effort to showcase its home country as the premier wind energy developer in the world. The reality is that time is as much a factor in determining a country’s “leadership” as generating capacity and actual generation levels are.
The two graphs provided below by the Global Wind Energy Council show that the US has had several more years than China to integrate wind energy into the grid, allowing for AWEA’s findings above. This does not contradict the AWEA’s findings, but rather it simply places them in their correct place.
In 2001, China is shown to have had a total of 404 MW of wind energy capacity installed, compared to the United States’ 4,275. It is only by 2010 that China overtakes the US in terms of cumulative installed capacity — a figure which explodes each year following.
The greater capacity earlier in the decade allowed the United States the opportunity to better integrate wind energy into the grid. China, on the other hand, has seen expansive growth over the last five years, but will still be attempting to efficiently integrate the energy derived from this expansion into its grids — a trickier task in a non-OECD country with millions of its population living off-grid.
Global wind leadership may currently reside with the US, but I’d argue that point right now. China’s policies and will to develop a strong wind industry top the US industry, which is likely only to sour further after the most recent congressional election saw a hostile-Republican Congress take power.
From the International Energy Agency, China shows year after year that it is more committed to renewable energy expansion than the whole of the OECD combined.
That AWEA has convinced itself a plateauing wind energy generation figure has successfully transferred “leadership” status from China to the US is a little unfair — and temporary to boot.
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