Wind power generated more electricity than nuclear power in China last year and will likely continue to do so in the future, according to a new report by the influential Earth Policy Institute (EPI).
The report, released last Tuesday, added nuclear power generation in China has risen by 10% annually since 2007 but wind power during the same period experienced “explosive growth” of 80% per year.
“China’s overall wind energy resource is staggering,” the report said. “Harvard researchers estimate that China’s wind generation potential is 12 times larger than its 2010 electricity consumption.”
The Asian nation connected four nuclear reactors in 2011 and 2012 with a combined generating capacity of 2,600 megawatts (MW), bringing its total nuclear installations to 12,800 MW, said the report by the EPI, an independent, nonprofit environmental research organisation based in Washington D.C.
The report added that while Chinese officials still claim the nation will reach 40,000 MW of nuclear capacity in 2015, the current pace of construction makes that target unlikely.
The report said the future for the wind power sector in China appears much more promising. “Wind developers connected 19,000 megawatts of wind power capacity to the grid during 2011 and 2012, and they are expected to add nearly this much in 2013 alone.”
Acknowledging that China’s wind energy industry has had to deal with the inability of the country’s underdeveloped electrical grid to fully accommodate fast-multiplying wind turbines in remote, wind-rich areas, the report said recent efforts to expand and upgrade the grid have improved the situation.
“By the end of 2012, 80% of China’s estimated 75,600 megawatts of wind capacity were grid-connected,” the report said. “China should easily meet its official target of 100,000 megawatts of grid-connected wind capacity by 2015.”
Chinese wind farms generated 2% more electricity in 2012 than nuclear power plants did, the report said, adding wind power clearly has its advantages.
“The immense wind resource cannot be depleted; wind farms can be built quickly; they emit no climate-destabilising carbon; and no costly fuel imports are needed to run them. (China spends billions of dollars each year importing most of the uranium needed to fuel its reactors.) Wind power is also ideal for countries such as China that face severe water shortages: unlike coal and nuclear power plants, wind farms need no water for cooling. As concerns about climate change and water scarcity mount, wind becomes increasingly attractive compared to conventional electricity sources.”
In December, EPI issued a press release that said world nuclear electricity-generating capacity has been essentially flat since 2007 and is likely to fall as plants retire faster than new ones are built.
“In fact, the actual electricity generated at nuclear power plants fell 5% between 2006 and 2011,” the press release said, adding electricity generation from the wind has grown 27% per year since 2006.