Catching the Wind
New models of China’s wind resources suggest that coal is not the only cost-effective energy option for the country. The winds blowing in China are powerful enough to generate low-carbon electricity that eliminates “much, if not all” of the power sector’s future greenhouse-gas emissions, according to researchers from Harvard University and Beijing’s Tsinghua University.
“We are trying to cut into the current defined demand for new electricity generation in China, which is roughly a gigawatt (GW) a week – or an enormous 50 GW per year,” said Michael McElroy, lead author of the study published in the current issue of Science, in a statement. “China is bringing on several coal-fired power plants a week. By publicising the opportunity for a different way to go we will hope to have a positive influence.”
As China’s demand for electricity increases an estimated 10% each year, the country is projected to need an additional 800 GW of coal-generated electricity during the next 20 years. With current wind energy payments of 0.4 yuan (US$0.059) per kilowatt-hour, wind energy could displace 23% of coal-generated electricity. If so, China would eliminate as much as 0.62 gigatonnes of annual carbon dioxide emissions, or 9.4% of the country’s current annual emissions, the study said.
Yet, as reported earlier, the wind power industry in China has a long way to go before it can reach its full potential. See a previous post from CDT.