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Forces of nature

Wind power is clean, efficient and ideally suited to China’s conditions. Change is in the air, writes Li Siqi.

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When Don Quixote charged at windmills atop his horse, he could never have imagined that several centuries later the target of his sword would be providing modern industrial societies with light and power.

The turbine blades turn in the wind, and electricity for domestic and industrial use flows from a generator at the base of the tower. Cooling off in a summer’s evening breeze, we might never realise the vast power the wind can supply us. However, estimates put the total amount of wind power available worldwide at 130 billion kilowatts (or 130 terawatts). And what does that really mean? Well, the US has less than 1 billion kilowatts of power-generating capacity; so in other words, less than 1% of the world’s available wind power could supply all of the electricity needs for the world’s largest economy.

When compared to burning fossil fuels, which emits huge quantities of pollutants and greenhouse gases, and even if compared to hydroelectric power, wind power is the genuinely environmental option. Wind power emits no carbon dioxide or other harmful gases, and has virtually no impact on the environment. It is a boon for a planet increasingly worried about environmental degradation and the greenhouse effect.

One kilowatt-hour of electricity generated from wind power can save up to 600 grams of carbon dioxide – the major trigger of global warming – as well as three grams of sulphur dioxide and two grams of nitrogen oxides (the causes of acid rain). In theory, if all our electricity came from wind power, emissions of greenhouse gases would drop by 60%. And the countries which have already adopted wind power more widely are feeling the benefits. Northern Europe is in an ideal position to exploit wind power, and Denmark has the highest wind generating capacity per head of any country, with Germany leading the world in overall wind power use. Europe is already proving itself a world leader in the use of wind power: in 2005, this alternative resource allowed the continent to avoid the release of 28 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, 94,000 tonnes of sulphur dioxide and 78,000 tonnes of nitrogen oxides. Danish firm BTM estimates that if 10% of our electricity came from wind power by 2025, emissions of carbon dioxide could be reduced by 1.4 billion tonnes.

China is of course known for its vast size, and has an unparalleled opportunity to harness wind power. The country has a theoretical onshore wind power generating capacity of 3.2 billion kilowatts, say the Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences, more than any other country – although only around 250 million kilowatts of this could be readily exploited. Add to this the potential for offshore wind generation, and the total comes to 1 billion kilowatts. China would only need 60% of that figure to meet all its electricity needs.

Not only is there rich potential for developing wind power, but also this potential is widely spread across the country, with prime spots along the east coast and its islands, the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, Inner Mongolia, China’s northwest and northeast. The provinces of Gansu, Shandong, Anhui and northern Jiangsu could also have this potential.

As in Europe, the benefits will be easily apparent. For example, wind farms in Inner Mongolia’s Huitengxile and Zhangbei in Hebei province will soon provide 5% of Beijing’s electricity, saving 1 million tonnes of coal and reducing emissions of carbon dioxide by 3 million tons, sulphur dioxide by 25,000 tonnes and smoke and dust by 30,000 tonnes.

Although the widespread use of wind power has so far been held back by high costs, growing environmental concerns and increasing technological improvement has meant these costs have fallen significantly. Preferential policies and tax breaks have helped too, and wind power is now able to compete with traditional sources of energy in a number of countries, which has in turn stimulated the growth of the industry over the past few years. At the end of 2006, 75 million kilowatts of wind power generating capacity were in place worldwide, two-thirds of it in Europe.

China has made good progress in its own application of wind power, but there remains a huge potential for expansion. The total annual capacity of China’s current wind turbines could still not power Beijing for a month. But the US, coming late in the game, has recently leapt into second place in the world in terms of total installed capacity. China has only 40 wind farms, with 1,500 turbines and 2.6 million kilowatts of power-generating capacity, less than a half of neighbouring India, putting the country sixth worldwide.

A combination of federal policy support and state tax breaks slashed the costs of wind power and stimulated its growth in the US, and China’s own policy-makers are starting to adopt the same measures. China’s Renewable Energy Law was promulgated in 2005 to boost the renewable power industry. Wind power receives state support, with preferential policies including tax breaks and assistance in connecting to the national grid; this has lead to an exponential growth in the industry. An extra 1.34 million kilowatts of generating capacity was installed in 2006, accounting for 8.9% of global growth and an increase of 165.83% on the previous year. If that rate of growth can be maintained, China will have 20.24 million kilowatts of wind power by 2010, and 225 million by 2020. That would mean 10% of China’s power coming from wind, and a 450 million tonnes reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, a sulphur dioxide reduction of 2.25 million tons and a cut in nitrogen oxides emissions of 1.35 million tones. And China would enjoy bluer skies.

Global wind power generating capacity is increasing by 25% a year, and an increasing number of nations are developing this clean source of energy. But so far we have only made tiny use of this incredible resource. Estimates show that if China and Europe made use of all available wind power along their coasts, they could meet all their energy needs. This is only the beginning.


Li Siqi is editorial assistant for chinadialogue’s Beijing office

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评论 comments

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous



Green Energy is our hope

Coal power produces co2, nuclear power produces nuclear wastes, hydropower pollutes ecosystem, probably our only hope is green energy

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous



smooth sailing

Wind power is indeed green, but it has its own shortfalls. It can't replace other types of energy in a short period of time and it requires a shreshold being reached to turn wind into energy. Wind is unpredictable, not storable, and it differs across regions and different seasons. Wind powerplant must be placed higher or at upperstream of the wind, which makes it highly scattered. Therefore, electricity production from wind power is highly unstable. If it is to be adopt, we will need further development in technology.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous



Too far to go

Coal power will be dominant energy resources for a long time in China. And then it will be hydropower, finally it may be wind power. The problem of cost is too difficult to solve.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous



Cost of wind power

The cost of wind power is declining at an increasing speed. It won't take long before it reaches those of traditional energies, such as the cost of coal-fired power plants.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous


Comment | 评论
风能统计我国采用地面10米以上风能蕴藏量为标准.其中风能的区域划分并非完全依据传统的地域概念,中国气象局在20世纪90年代,根据全国900多个气象台站实测资料做出了多年年平均风能密度分布图,首次完整细致地估算出各省及全国离地面10米高度层上的风能资源储量,给出我国陆地上10米高度风能资源报告,报告指出: 根据历年气象资料, 我国在距地面10 米高度处风能的分布情况是: 东南沿海及其岛屿、青藏高原、西北、华北、新疆、内蒙古和东北部分地区为风力资源丰富的地区, 平均风速大於3 米/秒的天数在200天以上;甘肃、山东、苏北、皖北等地区年平均风速大於3 米/秒的天数也在150 天以上.初步估计我国风能资源的蕴藏量约10 亿千瓦左右, 有可能利用的约10%, 即1 亿千瓦. 详情可以参看下列论文: http://engine.cqvip.com/content/
tk/98032x/1993/000/002/gc07_tk4_1148715.pdf 以及百科全书,中国风能资源条目

Wind Power in China

China collects statistics of wind power 10 meters above the ground.

Statistics show that rich wind power resources are available in southeast China's coastal areas and nearly islands and islets. Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, northwest China, north China, Xinjiang and Innor Mongolian regions, as well as some parts of northeast China.

This means this way to describe the availability of wind power resources in China is different from
the usual way when talking about geographic locations.

Please find more information by referring the essay.http://engine.cqvip.com/content/ tk/98032x/1993/000/002/gc07_tk4_1148715.pdf

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous



Wind power

There's a wind power plant near my home, the white fans of which are very beautiful. If all the electricity we are using comes from this type of place, there will be no pollution any more.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous




The pros and cons of wind energy

The general consensus is that wind energy is the perfect green energy. However, this observation is sadly wide of the mark. People tell of the great benefits of wind but they only recount one side of the story. Changes in surface winds, or the distribution of high and low pressure patterns can act to change the rate of the Earth's rotation or even the direction of the rotational axis. This means that over time it has the effect of stopping the Earth from rotating, leaving our planet in a still, motionless state. The wind's force, coupled with the dragging effect of tidal friction, will turn the planet into a barren land with atmospheric pressure rising to as high as 100 atm, and the temperature reaching 800 °C.

Exposure to the tropical sun causes air temperatures to rise, this air then expands, elevates and attracts bipolar cold air fronts. This is called the Hadley Cell. The Hadley Cell means that latitudinal zonal winds only have to reduce a tiny amount for ground latitude to increase and the ground speed to decrease rapidly (with a pole speed of 0). Therefore, under conditions of mid-latitude and high altitude, this means that wind direction in the Northern Hemisphere is south-westerly and the Southern Hemisphere is north-westerly, while at low altitude, the Northern Hemisphere is north-westerly, the southern hemisphere is south-westerly. So at mid-latitude and high latitude, the air pushing against the earth's surface is creating friction, slowing the Earth down. In short, the Earth's atmospheric energy is killing the planet's rotational force, turning the planet into the next Hesper – a motionless, uninhabitable land. If we adopt wind power on a large scale we shall inadvertently be digging a grave for our planet.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous



To Comment No. 7

I do not see any correlation between the facts and conclusion in your sentences..

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous


这个问题过于繁复,在《科学》杂志(美国《SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN》中文版1996年第三期)以“无情的地域之火”为题发表的时候,编辑部要求压缩到一万字以内,以至影响了阅读的效果。在这里是限制在3500字以内,所以只能提纲携领地提出问题和结论,没有详尽的展开论述。

Re Comment 8

That was the first time I commented on this website, not sure if it can get through to be published. So my comment was too simplified, no wonder it make you feel like that. Apologies for that, and please excuse me for the simplification.

This is a very complicated issue. When published on the third issue of Chinese version SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN in 1996, it was named "Hellfire without merci" and was required to be shortened to less than 10,000 words, which had some negative effects on the sucessful delivery of my idea. Here, there's a 3500 cap. I can only mention the main points, set up the framework and give a conclusion without further elaboration.

The article is not published in the original journal in the US. At that time, Scientific American would pick some local articles to be included in its Chinese version every time and my article was one of them. (They are not doing it any more.) Therefore, not so many people can get to read it. I left the information of my webpage and references at the end of my comment. (It's different from this in the sense that the other one is a popular science journal.) I plan to move my articles here in the future, for the diversification of the audience, for the trustworthy translation, and for the efforts saved from translating them myself.

Thanks for reading my comment and letting me know where the problems are!

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous




Giving future a blue sky

Wind power is our first and foremost choice of renewable energy for the following reasons:
1. The price of oil is on the rise.
We should reduce the dependence on it.

2. It has been long identified the serious pollution from coal burning generated electricity.

3. It seems that hydroelectric power is not as perfect as expected. The Three Gorges Dam has resulted in the pollution in main and branch waterways of Yangze River and some remarkable geographic demages with 17 out of 20 counties appearing landslides in that area.

4. While using nuclear power, people have to bear the danger of handing nuclear waste and take the risk of nuclear pollution.

5. The cost of solar power is way too high, up to 0.8 to 1 yuan RMB per kwh.

6. The cost of wind power has been significantly reduced, down to 0.4 to 0.6 yuan RMB per kwh.

Considering its environment friendly nature, the cost is almost the same as the traditional way of generating electricity.

Therefore, we should motivate all effort possible to develop the Brilliant Wind power of the future, which will leave the future generation a blue sky with effective implementation of government policies.