Sign of things to Come. In China – Wind Surpasses Nuclear in Energy Production.
March 1, 2013
Did you ever notice that, when nuclear advocates give out examples of countries that are “ahead of us”, or, “moving ahead”, or “successful examples” of nuclear energy, they always cite countries with tightly controlled socialist planned economies, like Russia, China, France and Japan?
Well, not so much Russia, since Chernobyl anyway – but China, Japan, France commonly come up. Well, not so much Japan since Fukushima. And with France, well, you got yer Freedom Fries and all that. And not so much Iran and North Korea.
Well, ok. China.
But you know what I mean.
Now, news out of China shines a light on progress in that country’s all-out assault on the renewable energy revolution. Wind has surpassed nuclear in power generation.
Wind has overtaken nuclear as an electricity source in China. In 2012, wind farms generated 2 percent more electricity than nuclear power plants did, a gap that will likely widen dramatically over the next few years as wind surges ahead. Since 2007, nuclear power generation has risen by 10 percent annually, compared with wind’s explosive growth of 80 percent per year.
Before the March 2011 nuclear disaster in Japan, China had 10,200 megawatts of installed nuclear capacity. With 28,000 megawatts then under construction at 29 nuclear reactors—19 of which had begun construction since 2009—officials were confident China would reach 40,000 megawatts of nuclear power by 2015 and perhaps 100,000 megawatts by 2020. The government’s response to the Fukushima disaster, however, was to suspend new reactor approvals and conduct a safety review of plants in operation and under construction.
When authorities finally lifted the moratorium on approvals in October 2012, it was with the stipulation that going forward only “Generation-III” models that meet stricter safety standards would be approved. China has no experience in operating these more advanced models; several of the Generation-III reactors it has currently under construction are already facing delays due to post-Fukushima design changes or supply chain issues.
Over the course of 2011 and 2012, China connected four reactors with a combined 2,600 megawatts of nuclear generating capacity, bringing its total nuclear installations to 12,800 megawatts. Although officials still claim that China will reach 40,000 megawatts of nuclear capacity in 2015, the current pace of construction makes this appear increasingly unlikely. China’s inexperience with Generation-III reactors also casts doubt on its prospects for achieving what the government now sees as a more reasonable 2020 goal, some 70,000 megawatts.
The outlook for wind in China is 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. An oft-cited problem for China’s wind energy sector has been the inability of the country’s underdeveloped electrical grid to fully accommodate fast-multiplying wind turbines in remote, wind-rich areas. Recent efforts to expand and upgrade the grid have improved the situation: by the end of 2012, 80 percent of China’s estimated 75,600 megawatts of wind capacity were grid-connected.
China should easily meet its official target of 100,000 megawatts of grid-connected wind capacity by 2015. Looking further ahead, the Chinese Renewable Energy Industry Association (CREIA) sees wind installations soaring to at least 200,000 megawatts by 2020. With the seven massive “Wind Base” mega-complexes now under construction in six provinces—slated to total at least 138,000 megawatts when complete in 2020—the CREIA projection seems well within reach.