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China could meet all of the demand for electricity by wind alone
30 Sep, 2009 03:05 pm
A team of environmental scientists from Harvard and Tsinghua University has demonstrated the huge potential for wind-generated electricity in China. Lu Xi, one of the co-authors of the study published in September in Science, answers Scitizen's questions.
What is China's wind-energy potential ?
If the concession price is set at 0.516 RMB/kWh (about 7.6 USD/kWh), the total profitable potentials for wind-generated electricity were estimated to be 6.96 trillion kWh in our current study, equal to all of the electricity demand in 2030 in China and about twice the current electricity consumption in China. Actually, China is not the only country to possess abundant wind resources. The United States, Canada, Australia, Russia and some European countries are all rich countries in terms of wind resources. I am also involved in a study to look at relationship between profitable wind energy and the level of PTC (production tax credit) subsidies in the U.S.
To what extent does China show its willingness to develop wind power?
At the end of last year, the installed capacity of existing wind farms in China got to 12.1 GW, exceeding the target of 10 GW by 2010 set by the Chinese government. In the "Medium and Long-Term Development Plan for Renewable Energy in China", the target of wind power was set to 30 GW by 2020. This target will be adjusted to 100 GW by 2020 in the new development plan for renewable energy in China. According to current momentum of the development of wind energy, the tripled new target could still be conservative. The RES (renewable electricity standards) was also adopted in China but the standards are much lower in comparison to the state RES in the US.
Could the wind electricity production replace coal plants?
Currently, wind electricity only contributes to 0.4% of the electricity supply in China, and the electricity powering by coal takes up nearly 80%. Demand for electricity in China has been increasing at an annual rate of close to 10% in the past decades and is expected to continue at a high rate of increase in the foreseeable future. The present study shows the potentials for electricity from wind is huge and could accommodate significant portions of electricity generated by burning fossil-fuel. As indicated in the last part of the paper, 30% of future incremental electricity being realized by wind in 2030 would require investment of 900 billion USD over the 20 years from now to 2030, which is not formidable given the size of the Chinese economy.
Does the Chinese electricity grid have the capacity to accommodate wind energy of any significant amount ?
Without any improvement of current grid system, my answer would be no. Some evidences show that the undeveloped transmission system in China is becoming a barrier for the development of wind energy. For example, some new wind farms have to delay their power generation due to transmission problems. The grid is not able to incorporate all the power generated during the surge of electricity generation from wind because of the limited capacity, which is also one of the reasons for relatively lower capacity-factors of existing wind farms in China. To accommodate the intrinsically variable wind energy of a significant amount, Chinese electricity grid would need to be smarter and stronger. Limitations imposed by the temporal variability can be minimized to some extent by developing an integrated national electric grid.
|China's wind-energy potential|
|Michael McElroy, Harvard University|
This question is almost true for everywhere. As the wind resources are normally rich in remote areas, far from the load center. Important exploitation of these resources will require significant extension of the existing power transmission grid. China needs to significantly improve its grid to coordinate the investment in the grid system with the development of its renewable energy resources in order to fully realize the potential of wind. It is noteworthy that upgrading grid infrastructure in China will be required in any event to accommodate anticipated future growth in power demand.
On the map, Inner Mongolia is the most favourable region for wind energy. Earlier this month, First Solar announced a memorandum of understanding with China to build a 2 GW solar power plant in Ourdos. The province seems to become the core of renewable energy in China...
Inner Mongolia is one of the provinces receiving highest priority to develop wind energy in China. Inner Mongolia, especially west Mongolia is also receiving abundant solar radiation. At the same time of rapid development of wind power, China is adopting the progressive energy policies to create a sustainable and long term market for the development of solar power. It is highly possible that Inner Mongolia becomes the core of renewable energy in China.
Interview by : Clementine Fullias
LU Xi is a Ph.D. student at Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. He is part of the China Project, a research program focused on China's atmospheric environment, collaborating across the schools of Harvard University and with Chinese universities.