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Go with wind: China to dramatically boost its wind power capacity, again

Kevin Mo

Posted July 21, 2009

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China keeps revising its renewable energy target for 2020--so frequently and dramatically that just when you feel you finally managed to track all the target numbers and to put them on paper, the numbers become history. China first announced its 2020 target for renewable energy in 2007, and then revised the numbers in May 2009. With the stimulus package injected into renewable energy investment, China is now reported to be revising the 2020 target plan again, which is even more ambitious (as shown below). It should be noted that China interchangeably uses the terms "alternative energy" and "renewable energy"; its portfolio includes large amounts of hydropower and nuclear power.


Installed Capacity by the end of 2008

The 2020 Target set in 2007

The 2020 Target revised in May 2009

Proposed plan to revise the 2020 Target 


12.17 gW

30 gW

100 gW

150 gW


140 mW

1.8 gW

10 gW+

20 gW


9.1 gW

40 gW

60~75 gW

86 gW

Total power supply

793 gW

1000 gW


1400~1500 gW


In the newly proposed 2020 renewable energy plan, wind power would become dominant, accounting for 10 percent of the total power supply and increasing from an initial 30 gigawatts (gW), which was less than nuclear power (40 gW), to 150 gW. This would be double the nuclear power target of 86 gW. Solar energy capacity would also be significantly increased, from the original 1.8 gW, to 20 gW, 142 times the installed capacity at the end of 2008.

To show it's not just a numbers game with the renewable energy target, a couple of weeks ago, China began construction on its first 10 gW wind power station in Jiuquan, Gansu province. The installed capacity will be increased to 20 gW by 2020 and eventually reach 40 gW, which would almost double the installed capacity of the gigantic Three Gorges Dam-the world's largest hydro-electric power station, with a potential total installed capacity at 22.4 gW. Gansu is now boasting "Three Gorges of Wind Farms," with a total investment predicted to be more than 120 billion yuan ($17.6 billion); the newly estimated total investment in Three Gorges Dam is about 180 billion yuan.

Of the 150 gW target by 2020, 30 gW will come from offshore wind farms. The largest offshore wind power project so far is the Donghai Bridge Wind Farm in Shanghai--the most fascinating wind farm, in my opinion. The Donghai Bridge is about 32.5 kilometers long, the longest in China. Wind turbines are being installed on both sides of the bridge. The total installed power capacity will reach 100 mW.

A Chinese research team has re-evaluated China's potential wind power resources and significantly increased its onshore wind power potential to 700~1,200 gW from the original forecast of 280 gW, which means wind power resources alone can meet the entire country's electricity demands. Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region and Inner Mongolia both boast more than 100 gW of wind energy resources. But there remains one big issue, similar to the one confronted by coal and natural gas industries: all the wind power resource--rich areas are thousands of kilometers away from high electricity demand areas. High voltage power lines are needed. In an effort to build a so-called Strong Smart Grid, China invested more in grids than in power generation last year.

China's total power capacity will be more than 900 gW in 2009, and will soon be close to what the U.S. has now--1,000 gW.

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