Wind power in China

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China is the world leader in wind power generation, with the largest installed capacity of any nation[1] and continued rapid growth in new wind facilities.[2] With its large land mass and long coastline, China has exceptional wind power resources:[3] it is estimated China has about 2,380 gigawatts (GW) of exploitable capacity on land and 200 GW on the sea.[4]

In 2016, China added 19.3 GW of wind power generation capacity to reach a total capacity of 149 GW, and generated 241 TWh of electricity, representing 4% of total national electricity consumption.[citation needed] Both China's installed capacity and new capacity in 2015 are the largest in the world by a wide margin, with the next largest market, the United States, adding 8.6 GW in 2015 and having an installed capacity of 74.4 GW.[5] Wind power in the United States has however a much higher capacity factor.

China is forecast to have 250 GW of wind capacity by 2020 as part of the government's pledge to produce 15 percent of all electricity from renewable resources by that year.[6] The Chinese government has set out a road map for wind power up to 2050. Wind power capacity goals are to reach 400 GW by 2030 and 1,000 GW by 2050.[7] China has identified wind power as a key growth component of the country's economy.[8] Researchers from Harvard and Tsinghua University have found that China could meet all of their electricity demands from wind power through 2030.[9] However, in practice, the use of wind energy in China has not always kept up with the remarkable construction of wind power capacity in the country;[10] in 2014, about one fifth of potential electricity was not used due to grid constraints.[11]

The largest domestic wind turbine manufacturer in China is Goldwind from Xinjiang province. Established in 1998, Goldwind aggressively developed new technology and expanded its market share, though this then decreased from 35% in 2006 to 19% in 2012.[12] In 2019, Goldwind was one of the first partners to sign up for a wind-to-hydrogen project in northeast China, in the hopes of using China's currently unused wind generation potential to good use and turn stranded wind power into a cheap energy source for hydrogen production.[13] The China Longyuan Electric Power Group Corp., another subsidiary of China Guodian Corporation, was an early pioneer in wind farm operation; at one point it operated 40% of the wind farms in China.[14]

According to new calculations by Fitch Solutions, wind generation is expected to reach approximately 1,000TWh in China by 2028 compared to previous forecasts of 870TWh, due to reduced project cost made feasible by upgrades in the efficiency of technology.[15]

Installed capacity[edit]

Wind power generation in China (TWh)
Wind power installed capacity in China (GW)
Mean Wind Speed in China.[16]
Wind power in China
2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018[17] 2019[18]
Capacity (MW)[19] 1,260 2,599 5,912 12,200 16,000 31,100 62,700 75,000 91,424 114,763 129,700 149,000 163,670 184,260 210,050
Production (GWh)[20] 1,927 3,675 5,710 14,800 26,900 44,622 74,100 103,000 134,900 153,400 186,300 241,000 305,700 366,000 405,700
Capacity factor 17.5% 16.1% 11% 13.8% 19.2% 16.4% 13.5% 15.7% 16.8% 15.3% 16.4% 18.5% 21.3% 22.7% 22.0%


Wind turbine tower elements in an assembly facility in Liu'ao, Zhangpu County, Fujian
A Goldwind wind farm outside of Urumqi, Xinjiang
Wind power turbine towers in Liu'ao, near the "Abstract Art Gallery"

In 2005, the standing committee of the National People's Congress passed a law that requires Chinese power grid enterprises to purchase all the electricity produced by the renewable energy sector.[21]

Chinese developers unveiled the world's first permanent Maglev wind turbine at the Wind Power Asia Exhibition 2006 held in Beijing. The Zhongke Hengyuan Energy Technology company invested CN¥400 million in building the base for the maglev wind turbine generators, in which construction began in November 2007. Zhongke Hengyuan expects a yearly revenue of CN¥1.6 billion from the generators.

In 2006 the Shanghai Power Company purchased 64.485 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of green energy (primarily from wind farms), yet the amount of renewable energy which was subscribed by customers from Shanghai Power Company was only 23% of that total. In 2006 there were just 6,482 households in Shanghai that subscribed to renewable energy in part because the cost of wind power is 0.53 Yuan/kWh higher than power produced from coal plants; in 2007 total output of wind farms in Shanghai will total 100 GWh, which is sufficient to power 120,000 households. Though there were 22 entities that purchased renewable energy in Shanghai, though with the exception of 1/3 of that total being state owned enterprises, the remainder was foreign invested enterprises. Shanghai's city government did not purchase any renewable energy. Of the top ten power customers in Shanghai, only Bao Steel purchased renewable energy; in 2006 Bao Steel entered into an agreement to purchase 1.2 GWh over three years.[22]

By the end of 2008, at least 15 Chinese companies were commercially producing wind turbines and several dozen more were producing components.[23] Turbine sizes of 1.5 MW to 3 MW became common. Leading wind power companies in China were Goldwind, Dongfang Electric, and Sinovel[24] along with most major foreign wind turbine manufacturers.[25] China also increased production of small-scale wind turbines to about 80,000 turbines in 2008. Through all these developments, the Chinese wind industry appeared unaffected by the global financial crisis, according to industry observers.[24]

China became the largest wind energy provider worldwide in 2010, with the installed wind power capacity reaching 41.8 GW at the end of the year. However, about a quarter of this capacity was not connected to the grid.[26]

In 2011, China put forth a plan to have 100 GW of grid-connected wind power capacity by the end of 2015 and to generate 190 terawatt-hours of wind power annually.[27] This target was reached in 2014, making China the first country in the world to reach 100 GW of installed wind capacity.[28] As of 2014, Goldwind remains the largest competitor in the Chinese wind energy market, with a 19% share of new installations. It is followed by Guodian United Power Technology Company (a subsidiary of China Guodian Corporation) at 11%, and Mingyang Wind Power at 9%.[28]

Offshore wind[edit]

Donghai Bridge Wind Farm

China set an ambitious goal[when?] of 5 GW of installed offshore wind capacity by 2015 and 30 GW by 2020. However, development of offshore wind power did not come as fast as expected. Construction of Donghai Bridge Wind Farm, the first offshore wind farm in China started in April 2009, close to Donghai Bridge, and commissioned in 2010 to provide electricity to the 2010 Shanghai Expo. The wind farm consists of 34 Sinovel 3 MW wind turbines at a cost of US$ 102 million.[3][29][30] The next is the 150 MW Longyuan Rudong Intertidal Wind Farm costing 500 million ¥, operational in 2012.[31][32][33] By the end of 2012, China had only installed 389.6 MW offshore wind capacity, still far from the target goal of 5 GW by the end of 2015.[34]

In May 2014, total capacity of offshore wind power in China was 565 MW,[35] which raised to about 900 MW in 2015, less than a fifth of the expected target.[36] Installations increased substantially in 2016, with 592 MW of offshore wind power capacity deployed, ranking third in the world behind Germany and the Netherlands.[37] By the end of 2016, the total cumulative offshore wind power capacity in the country was 1.9 GW.[38]

Offshore wind development slower pace in China is mainly due to the lack of experience of domestic turbine manufacturers in the sector. This forces local development to use foreign products, resulting in Siemens being the largest supplier of offshore wind turbines in China. Another problem is the huge investment needed and associated risks of offshore development, which discourage private companies.[36]

On 5 August 2020, a new report revealed by the Global Wind Energy Council stated that China is expected to host more than a fifth of the world’s offshore wind turbines, equating to 52 GW, claiming the top spot for the largest market for offshore wind by 2030.[39]

Future wind farms[edit]

The Gansu Wind Farm Project under construction in western Gansu province is one of six national wind power megaprojects approved by the Chinese government. It is expected to grow to 20,000 MW by 2020, at an estimated cost of 120 billion Chinese yuan ($17.5 billion). In 2008, construction began on a 750 kV AC power line to dispatch the electricity from the wind farm.[40]

When complete, the complex of wind farms at Gansu may become the world's largest collective wind farm.[41]


External video
video icon Access to mountaintops can be challenging

Areas with great wind power potential such as Gansu are sometimes far away from established industrial and residential centers. Coal-fired plants have a constituency of miners and local governments which wind-power projects lack. This has led to power generated by wind remaining underused.[42]

Transmission capacity of the grid hasn't kept up with the growth of China's wind farms. In 2009, only 72% (8.94 GW) of China's total wind power capacity was connected to the grid.[43] In 2014, 96.37 GW of China's capacity was connected to the grid,[44] out of a total capacity of 114.6 GW.[28] In the first half of 2015, 1.75 TWh of wind power was wasted according to China's National Energy Administration. The slowdown in the Chinese economy in 2015 also led to overcapacity in the power sector, reducing demand.[45] In an effort to reduce excess power capacity and encourage greater use of renewables, the Chinese government halted approvals for construction of new coal power plants for the three-year period starting in 2016.[46] Combined curtailment of North China wind power was nearly 34 TWh in 2015.[47]

In 2014, the US generated more electricity from wind (167 TWh) despite a lower generating capacity because of China's connectivity and grid capacity problems.[48] According to a 2013 report in The Economist, the US produced 40% more energy from a similar capacity of wind power, because Chinese wind farms are not efficiently connected to the power grid.[49]

A potential solution will be to move wind turbines to urban areas, but not without challenges. Shen et al. (2019) discover that Chinese city-dwellers may be somewhat resistant to building wind turbines in urban areas, with a surprisingly high proportion of people citing an unfounded fear of radiation as driving their concerns.[50] In addition, the study finds that like their counterparts in OECD countries, urban Chinese respondents are sensitive to direct costs and to wildlife externalities. Distributing relevant information about turbines to the public may alleviate resistance.

See also[edit]


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