China Doubles Wind Watts

Trumping rivals in wind energy despite dismal returns

3 min read

China is notorious for its accelerating consumption of coal, which will soon push it past the United States as a leading producer of greenhouse-gas emissions. But China is also rapidly becoming a world leader in wind power. Its fleet of wind turbines more than doubled in generating capacity in 2007, surging by over 3 gigawatts, according to the Global Wind Energy Council. That's less power capacity than China's coal sector adds per week, but it's enough to make China the third-fastest-growing wind market worldwide (behind the United States and Spain) and propel it to fifth place in the Global Wind Energy Council's annual capacity rankings (ahead of even wind-energy pioneer Denmark).

Sebastian Meyer, director of research for Beijing consultancy Azure International Technology & Development, predicts that China will add another 4 to 5 GW's worth of wind turbines in 2008, thanks in part to new standards announced late last year that mandate a greater reliance on renewable energy. If Meyer is right, China will close out 2008 with at least 10 GW of installed wind capacity--twice the country's target for 2010. Meyer says that wind farms are going up faster than China's grid operators can connect them to regional transmission lines. ”Incredibly, up to 2 GW of the capacity out there at the end of 2007 was installed but not yet commissioned,” says Meyer. He expects those wind farms to be connected soon.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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