China has been touted as moving ahead of the US in the application of wind energy. Perhaps so, but what does this really mean to their total energy package…where does wind power fit in? Will it finally replace the nasty coal-fired plants? Are they setting the example for the US?
The Wall Street Journal reports today that, in fact “Ill Winds: China’s Wind-Power Push Means More Coal.” On their Environmental Capital blog, Keith Johnson refers to the WSJ reports that state “[O]fficials want enough new coal-fired capacity in reserve so that they can meet demand whenever the wind doesn’t blow…”China will need to add a substantial amount of coal-fired power capacity by 2020 in line with its expanding economy, and the idea is to bring some of the capacity earlier than necessary in order to facilitate the wind-power transmission,” said Shi Pengfei, vice president of the Chinese Wind Power Association.”
Further, Mr. Johnson reports that “Wind turbines with a combined capacity of 12.7 gigawatts are due to be installed there by 2015—more than the country’s present nuclear-power capacity. But the Jiuquan government wants to build 9.2 gigawatts of new coal-fired generating capacity as well, for use when the winds aren’t favorable. That’s equivalent to the entire generating capacity of Hungary.”
And, “Chinese coal plants—except for a handful of the most modern, supercritical plants currently under construction—are even less environmentally-friendly than coal plants elsewhere.”
It seems, according to the Journal that “China is undoubtedly making moves to boost the use of clean energy. But that by itself does not mean that China’s overall energy mix is going to get a lot cleaner. That simply makes the future of clean coal all the more important.”
Bottom line, China will be constructing coal-fired power plants at nearly the same capacity levels as wind turbine facilities because wind turbines cannot be depended upon to supply electricity when needed. Perhaps China is telling us what we already know … wind turbines do not replace coal-fired plants.
Full WSJ article here for your convenience.