Wednesday, May 30, 2012

China is global wind energy leader

Global installed wind power capacity continued to grow in 2011, albeit at a slightly lower rate than in 2009 and 2010, according to new research conducted by the Worldwatch Institute for its Vital Signs Online service. The world now has approximately four times the installed wind capacity that it did in 2005, reflecting the combined effects of falling prices, improved technology, global investment, and various incentive programs. China led the way with a 43 percent share of global capacity additions in 2011, followed by the United States at 17 percent, India with almost 7 percent, and Germany at 5 percent, writes report author and Worldwatch's Climate and Energy Program Manager Mark Konold.

"China continues to lead the world in wind capacity additions, having increased its capacity a remarkable 40 percent since 2010," said Konold. "But a gap remains between this installed capacity and the amount of wind power that is actually available for use in the country. Because of grid connection challenges and other issues, China is struggling to use all of the electricity generated by its turbines."

Despite large increases in installed wind power capacity, several Chinese provinces, including Inner Mongolia and Gansu, have actually lost a significant portion of their generation capacity because of technical problems. Over the next five years, China plans to invest more than US$400 billion to make improvements to its electrical grid that will enable it to fully integrate its total installed wind capacity by 2015.

In 2011, the United States accounted for approximately 17 percent of global wind power capacity additions. Although the country generated 27 percent more electricity from wind in 2011 than in 2010, wind power still accounts for less than 3 percent of total U.S. power generation, according to the report. Konold credits much of the growth in U.S. wind power capacity to the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC), which helped to finance approximately 4,000 megawatts of new capacity by reducing corporate income tax by 2.2 cents for every kilowatt-hour produced. But if the PTC is not extended beyond its scheduled expiration date at the end of this year, he cautions, the industry could be negatively affected.

The report also discusses wind power developments in the European Union, where Germany regained its position as regional leader for installed capacity. Currently, wind accounts for almost 8 percent of the country's electricity consumption. Although Spain added only a third of total EU capacity since 2008, wind power accounts for almost 16 percent of the country's electricity consumption. Economic instability has had some negative impacts on European wind power, however, pushing future growth projections down and potentially hampering investment.

Worldwide, wind power prices fell to $1.2 million per megawatt in the first half of 2011, mainly because of improvements in supply chain efficiency and economies of scale. Competition from Chinese manufacturers and their excess capacity to build machines and flood the market also played a role. In addition, the capacity factor of wind turbines (the ratio of actual output to nameplate capacity) continues to rise as better technologies enter the market, further driving down turbine costs. Combined, these factors are expected to bring down the cost of wind energy 12 percent by 2016, making onshore wind cost competitive with coal, gas, and nuclear power.

"Global wind power growth looks very strong and is on a continued rise, largely because of China's incredible level of investment," said Konold. "Withhold that, and the picture looks more muddled. Developed economies are not reaching their fullest potential due to financial and policy uncertainty, and many developing economies are running into technical problems, despite slightly stronger growth in wind power capacity. Although continued growth in wind power won't be as strong as it could be, as the supply increases and prices fall, wind energy is quite likely to continue its upward trend."

Further highlights from the report:
  • Global installed wind power capacity grew 21 percent in 2011, lower than the 2010 rate of 24 percent and markedly lower than the 2009 rate of 31 percent.
  • Nearly $75 billion was invested in global wind energy installations in 2011, a 22 percent decrease from 2010.
  • Although the United States lags behind Europe and China in offshore wind power capacity, the U.S. Department of Energy plans to make available $180 million over the next six years to support up to four innovative wind farms off the coasts or in the Great Lakes.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Renewable energy sources in China

China still primarily depends on coal and fossil fuels as the dominant energy sources but nonetheless renewable energy use is constantly increasing helping China to complete its economic transition and improve energy security. Because of the rapid energy development China is today the global clean energy leader as being the world's largest manufacturer of solar panels and wind turbines. Today, more than 20 percent of China's electricity comes from renewable energy sources with hydropower leading the


In 2009, China had a total installed capacity of hydropower of 197 GW. The largest hydropower project in China is Three Gorges Dam. Solar and power may be lately getting more buzz than hydropower but hydropower still remains China's top renewable energy source, even despite causing extent environmental damage in certain parts of China.

Wind power

China has overall excellent wind energy potential (three quarters of the resources are offshore). China has started massive wind energy expansion in early 2000s and in 2010 overtook United States as the world's largest wind energy producer. The country has recognized wind energy as a crucial development part of the nation's economy. China is also today the world's largest producer of wind turbines, overtaking Germany, Denmark, United States and Spain.

Solar Power

China currently creates more 30% of the world's solar panels and it is the world's biggest producer of solar panels. Major Chinese solar panel manufacturers are these companies: Trina Solar, Suntech Power Holdings, Canadian Solar, Yingli Solar, Upsolar and Solarfun. Thin film photovoltaics manufacturers are Astronergy Solar and ENN Solar while Wafers and poly silicon manufacturers are ReneSola and LDK. Despite not having the best available solar energy resources China still plans big development in solar, hoping to achieve global lead like it has already done with wind.

Biofuel and Biomass

China is today the third largest ethanol producer in the world (behind the United States & Brazil). China currently produces around 6 megatons per year of fuel ethanol capacity, a number that is likely to increase to 15 megatons per year by 2020. On the negative note this could result in higher food prices because many Chinese farmers will start to "farm" food for biofuels. The output of corn is expected to be inadequate to produce the raw material for the crops in those areas according to planned ethanol assignments in certain provinces in China. Whether biofuel and biomass is really the way to go for China, only time will tell, though at this moment there are some serious setbacks

Geothermal power

China has very good geothermal energy resources through the nation. There are more than 2,700 warm springs in the country (with the temperature going above 25°C). However, China has so far built only 7 geothermal power plants, and this renewable energy source is often neglected in arguments about China's clean energy future. There have been some plans that should give boost to geothermal energy development in nation, none of which serious enough to attract big investments.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Transition to renewable energy is priority

Transition to renewable energy is not only priority because of the climate change but also because of the future energy security. World will eventually run out of fossil fuels and then we'll be in need of new energy sources. Nuclear is not safe, hydrogen is still more theoretical than practical solution leaving only renewable energy as the best logical choice.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Obama once again showing support for renewables

What a coincidence! President Obama once again showing strong support for renewable energy development and that happens to coincide with the upcoming elections. Though this time in order to also get a green light from fossil fuel supporters he also praised shale gas as one of the country's top energy sources. Basically hi energy strategy is "I'm open for everything, please elect me once again."

Friday, January 20, 2012

Variety of renewable energy options is big advantage

One of the main advantages of renewable energy over fossil fuels is also variety of different renewable energy sources. With more renewable energy options such as solar, wind, geothermal, wave and tidal power, biomass and biofuels each country has many different options to increase the amount of clean energy in its energy mix.

Why more renewable energy? Not just because renewable energy is good for environment and can slow changing climate but also because it reduces the need for foreign fuel import and creates new jobs.