When the world’s largest offshore wind farm, in the English Channel off Kent in south-east England, started producing power in September, it was a rare moment in the spotlight for the popular retirement destination. But it is likely soon to have to share its crown with somewhere more accustomed to grabbing headlines.
Next year, work begins on a plant in the waters off Jiangsu province in southern China which, like the Kent one, will boast a capacity of 300 megawatts. This marks a new turn in the story of China’s runaway windpower build-out: so far the country has only one offshore wind farm. But it has plenty of the terrestrial variety.
China’s appetite for wind power equipment more than doubled in each of the past four years and it is on course to beat its official target of 30 gigawatts installed wind power by 2020 this year and may surpass the US to have the world’s largest wind power capacity.
On optimistic assumptions, it could have 230GW by 2020, concluded an October report by the Global Wind Energy Council, Greenpeace, and the Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association.
The turbines towering over the windy northern reaches are only the most visible symptom of a centrally mandated push into greener energy. This began cranking up in 2006, when the Renewable Energy Law came into force, aiming to raise renewable energy’s share of total consumption to 15 per cent by 2020.
Internationally, China has come in for much criticism over its role in stalled talks about a climate change agreement to replace the Kyoto treaty. But, Thibaud Voita, a Beijing-based energy efficiency specialist with the Institute for Industrial Productivity, a non-profit organisation, says that observers should not conflate events on the global stage with the situation on the ground.
“China is making huge efforts to green its energy production and become more energy-efficient,” he says. “There is a strong commitment in the central government.”
Read more at Financial Times