Saturday, 11 January 2014

China Lead World in Push for Wind Power

by Toby Benham

China plans to more than double its number of wind turbines in the next 6 years. This bold move involves increasing the nationwide wind power capacity from 75 gigawatts (GW) to 200 GW. To put this into context, all of the countries of the EU combined have a total capacity of around 90 GW. This is an important positive move for a country that is a leading contributor of greenhouse gases. Wind turbine technology is improving due to the massive market potential. Current efforts are innovating the field while simultaneously lowering prices. This is beneficial to other countries worldwide. The opportunity arises to either purchase turbines from the Chinese or further their research. While sustainable energy is the way forward there are still problems to be addressed. 

While China contributes to 26.7% of the worlds installed wind power capacity, this only meets 2% of the country’s power demands. In fact 75% of their power still comes from coal. Clearly more needs to be done in an effort to phase out fossil fuels for renewables. For this to happen, renewable energy technologies need to be improved to be able to provide more power and deliver it to the right places. Excellent research has been carried out to bring us the technology we have today. However there are serious problems when trying to use these technologies to supply countries with large quantities of power. Energy storage is a key issue. Sticking with wind, generally the amount of wind is intermittent. This means that there is either no electricity being generated or too much to cope with. Last year in China around a quarter of turbines were left off during the windiest times because the turbines are vulnerable to damage during high winds. Another problem is that the windiest places are generally far away from the cities that require power from them. New advances may provide answers to these issues, but it is difficult to tell if this will be years or decades away. One thing is for certain; China should be commended for taking a step in the right direction. This is an opportunity for other countries to follow suit and develop more renewables.