Two weeks ago we learned that China wasted a whopping one fifth of its wind energy capacity last year, the result of local provinces making a mad dash to erect new wind farms without constructing the necessary corresponding grid infrastructure to help transmit these new, more distributed sources of power. Now, the country’s wind industry is weighing the option of suing these provinces for stymying their efforts to grow. The FT reports:
China has emerged as the world’s top region for wind power, accounting for a third of global installed capacity after overtaking the EU last year, according to the Global Wind Energy Council. But much of the electricity produced by its vast wind farms goes unused, with grids unable to accommodate fluctuating sources of power and amid rising overcapacity in the country’s total power generation. […]
China’s Wind Association said on Thursday it had given relevant ministries in the provinces of Gansu, Yunnan and Xinjiang two weeks to justify explicit curbs on wind power use by local grids, and may pursue litigation depending on the response. “We hope to use the law to solve this problem,” said Qin Haiyan, general secretary of the Wind Energy Association.
This isn’t a new problem for wind energy. Like solar, it can only contribute power intermittently, and that makes it difficult to integrate into power distribution systems for whom stability and consistency are paramount. But China’s rapid wind energy expansion in recent years makes this issue especially challenging for local provinces to overcome. It’s not enough to throw up a field of wind turbines and call it a day—you have to also invest in the surrounding support infrastructure, a detail most starry-eyed greens keen to push renewables at any cost always seem to overlook.
Beijing sees renewables as having huge potential for boosting energy security by lessening Chinese dependence on foreign sources of energy, but their intermittency remains their achilles heel, and until we see a breakthrough in energy storage technology we’re going to continue to see stories like this one.