At the national power summit held in China just before Christmas, China Electricity Council (CEC) president Liu Zhenya announced that the country’s installed capacities for wind and hydro power had grown to be the world’s largest.
In the last six years, installed wind power generating capacity in China has increased from 2,000 megawatts (MW) to 52,580 MW. In 2011, China generated 70.6 terrawatt hours (TWh) of wind power, a 96 per cent increase. The Chinese government projects that their wind generating capacity will be more than 100,000 MW in 2015 and 200,000 MW in 2020.
The country’s cumulative capacity is now 118 times more than that of 10 years ago according to Liu, helping the country earn a distinction as the world’s top wind energy provider.
The International Wind Energy Development report in 2010 predicted that China could create up to 230 GW of wind power by 2030.
There is still work to be done, however. Regional connections are still weak, and there is not yet a unified national market and corresponding grid network.
China is also increasing its construction of hydro power projects. The country is already home to the Three Gorges Dam Project (TGP), the world’s largest hydro power complex project, which includes approximately one million square kilometres of drainage area and averages a runoff of 451 billion cubic metres annually. The dam stands 185 metres high and stretches 2,309 metres wide.
Although the increase in hydroelectric dams is seen by many as positive, allowing China to decrease its dependence on coal and reducing the need to import different energy sources due to the country’s rapid economic growth, there are still concerns.
The long-term ecological effects of the Three Gorges Dam have been described as ‘possibly catastrophic,’ and environmentalists have claimed the dam will disrupt heavy silt flows in the river and could cause rapid silt build-up in the reservoir, creating an imbalance upstream and depriving agricultural land and fish downstream of essential nutrients.
There was also outcry when 1.27 million people were forced to relocate for the dam in September 2009.
Liu noted, however, that China is witnessing soaring growth in other clean energy sectors. Its solar photovoltaic power capacity, he said, has been increasing by more than 50 per cent each year and China will continue with this commitment to renewable energy, he said.
The plan is continue to optimize the country’s energy structure by tapping into new energy sources in a bid to secure future energy supply.
As part of this, the CEC has recommended that China should construct a strong and smart power grid to back up the development of clean energy in the country, as well as building a market mechanism to help new energy sectors boom.