China shut down numerous wind turbines because much of the new electricity was wasted, causing serious damage to the country’s electrical grid.
China has poured more than $80 billion building new green energy in 2014 alone, while the U.S. spent a “mere” $34 billion. More than one-in-three wind turbines currently installed worldwide are in China. Even with this enormous number of turbines, China still produces less electricity from wind than America, indicating the country is so over-saturated with turbines that it is damaging the power grid, potentially leading to blackouts.
“The numbers are striking. They say China is building wind faster than it can be absorbed,” Justin Wu, the head of the Asia-Pacific branch of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, told Bloomberg Tuesday. “Some policy has run ahead of other policy. Policy to incentivize to build [wind turbines] is working great, but policy to actually get the grid to uptake is falling behind.”
The government stopped approving new wind power projects in the country’s windiest regions in early March, according to China’s National Energy Administration statement. These regions previously installed nearly 71 gigawatts of wind turbines, more than the rest of China combined. A single gigawatt of electricity is enough to power 700,000 homes. Government statistics show that 33.9 billion kilowatt-hours of wind-power, or about 15 percent of all Chinese wind power, was wasted in 2015 alone.
Beijing has ordered wind operators to stop expanding four times in the last five years, because unreliable wind power was damaging the country’s power grid and costing the government enormous amounts of money. The best areas for wind turbines in China are far away from the coastal provinces where most of its population lives. Building the infrastructure to transmit wind energy over long distances is enormously expensive and could cost many times the price of generating the electricity.
Despite the freeze on new wind-farms, the Chinese government still plans to get 15 percent of the country’s electricity from green energy by 2020.
Wind power damages the power grid because the amount of electricity generated by a wind turbine is very intermittent and doesn’t coincide with the times of day when power is most needed. This poses an enormous safety challenge to grid operators and makes power grids vastly more fragile.
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