China Shuts Down Construction Of New Wind Turbines, Fears Blackouts

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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China’s government announced Thursday the country will shut down the production of new wind turbines in five provinces, as they cause serious damage to the electrical grid.

China specifically shut down construction in the windiest regions of the country because roughly 26 percent of the country’s wind power was wasted in 2016. Wasted wind power is incredibly problematic, because it damages the power grid and can potentially cause massive blackouts.

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, were wasted in 2015 alone.

“We estimate that over the course of the first six months, 4.2 billion kilowatt hours of wind and solar power has been wasted, which is equivalent to New Zealand’s electricity use in the whole year of 2015,” Peng Peng, an analyst with the Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association, told Reuters.

Wind turbines are extremely intermittent and don’t produce much power at the times of day when electricity is most needed. This poses an enormous safety risk to grid operators and makes power grids vastly more fragile.

Beijing 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. Building the infrastructure to transmit wind energy over long distances is enormously expensive and could cost many times the price of generating the electricity. This is a huge problem because the best areas for wind turbines in China are far away from the coastal provinces where most of its population lives.

China 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.

Despite the construction shutdown, the Chinese government still plans to get 15 percent of the country’s electricity from green energy by 2020.

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