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.