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Wasted Effort
China Squanders Wind Energy

It takes more than simply erecting a turbine in order to start generating power from wind, and while China’s local provinces have been quite diligent at constructing wind farms in recent years, many of these projects have been poorly sited and have lacked the necessary grid backing to take proper advantage of the renewable resource. As a result, China wasted one fifth of its potential wind power in 2015. Reuters reports:

Energy wastage on wind farms in China worsened in 2015, as plunging utilization rates kept 33.9 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) from being delivered to the grid, the energy regulator said, the equivalent of a fifth of total generated wind power. […]

China’s total wind power capacity reached 133.3 gigawatts by the end of February, making up 9 percent of its total, but generation levels, at 168 billion kWh, accounted for just 3 percent of the national total in 2015.

Critics have accused local governments of focusing on capacity rather than efficiency and utilization, hitting renewable energy targets by building windfarms in regions plagued by low wind speeds and insufficient grid capacity.

Wind turbines only start turning (and generating power) when wind speeds fall within a specific range, and many places on this planet don’t see the sorts of sustained velocities necessary for the construction of a wind farm to make sense. Beijing has pushed local governments to build out their wind energy capacities, but in many cases this hasn’t been done with the end goal of efficiently producing power in mind, and as a result the country’s utilization rates for its wind turbines is quite low.

Renewables require a host of support infrastructure, including the strengthening of power grids to allow for the sorts of intermittent contributions that solar and wind farms supply. By ignoring those pesky “details” and failing to diligently site many of its wind farms, China has put itself in a position where it’s squandering huge amounts of power. This is not the sign of a healthy industry.

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  • CaliforniaStark

    One of the biggest fictions used by renewable energy advocates is to imply the nameplate capacity of wind and solar are the actual amount of energy that will be produced. Nameplate capacity refers to the amount of power produced if the energy source were producing 24 hours day/ 7 days a week. Wind and solar work intermittently, and so produce much less energy than their rated capacity.

    Wind power has been estimated to actually produce energy at about 25% of rated capacity. However, this number falls steeply after the date of installation. The U.K. Renewable Energy Foundation several years ago published a study which showed that on-shore wind farms in the U.K. produced 24% of capacity the first year; 15% of capacity after 10 years; and only 11% of capacity after 15 years. It found that off-shore wind farms in Denmark produced 40% of capacity their first year, but less than 15% their tenth year. By the twentieth year, most wind farms are at the end of their useful lives.

    Wind power is a costly investment that provides a rapidly diminishing, short-term return, especially if the site location is poor.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    You don’t understand the real objective for the Chinese Government. They want to buy political support by providing jobs, and the politicians want the graft they can rake off all the construction. Adding power to the grid is just a reasonable justification, but it’s in no way what’s motivating the development of wind power.

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