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article imageChina's monstrous wind and solar projects - Most of it is wasted

By Karen Graham     Jan 19, 2017 in Environment
Beijing - China is the world's biggest energy market, and like many energy projects in the country, wind and solar farms are some of the largest on the globe. But with all the country's investments in renewables, China's economy is still dependent on fossil fuels.
Longyangxia Dam hydropower station on the Yellow River in Gonghe County in China's Qinghai province is also home to the Longyangxia Dam Solar Park, a vast 9.16 square kilometer (2,263 acres) stretch of solar panels covering what was once a wind-swept cattle ranch.
The dam was commissioned in 1992, and the solar farm began construction in 2013, at a cost of about $6 billion yuan ($721 million). The solar farm has been constantly expanding and now has the capacity to produce 850MW of power each year – enough to power up to 200,000 households.
Small Tibetan Zang hamlet at Qinghai Lake (or kokonor in mongol) South-East  using solar water heati...
Small Tibetan Zang hamlet at Qinghai Lake (or kokonor in mongol) South-East, using solar water heating and double rotor wind turbines, and photovoltaics panels.
Between the hydropower station and the solar farm, China has one of the largest hybrid hydro-solar PV power stations in the world. But like other energy projects in the country, energy wastage and transmission are problems that still have to be overcome.
China also has one of the world's largest wind farms. Located on the edge of the Gobi Desert is the Jiuquan Wind Power Base. The wind farm is part of the Gansu Wind Farm Project, one of six national wind power megaprojects approved by the Chinese government. It has the capacity to produce 2,000 KW, yet produces close to nothing.
With over 7,000 turbines that can generate enough electricity to power a small nation, the Jiuquan Wind Power Base is only operating at about 40 percent of capacity. It's not for a lack of winds to generate electricity, though. It's more a problem of under-utilization of renewables and a still strong dependence on coal.
A photovoltaic (PV) module is a packaged  connect assembly of typically 6×10 solar cells. Solar Pho...
A photovoltaic (PV) module is a packaged, connect assembly of typically 6×10 solar cells. Solar Photovoltaic panels constitute the solar array of a photovoltaic system that generates and supplies solar electricity in commercial and residential applications.
AleSpa (CC BY-SA 3.0)
China's aspirations to dominate the green energy market
Between 2008 and 2013, China somehow managed to become the world's leader in solar energy. In doing so, solar-electric panel industry prices dropped 80 percent worldwide, according to Scientific American.
As for wind power, China now has over 92,000 wind turbines, capable of generating 145 gigawatts of electricity, almost double the capacity of wind farms in the U.S. To put it in perspective, one out of every three wind turbines in the world is in China, and the New York Times writes that the government is adding them at a rate of more than one an hour.
Wind turbine tower elements in an assembly facility in Liu ao  Zhangpu County  Fujian.
Wind turbine tower elements in an assembly facility in Liu'ao, Zhangpu County, Fujian.
In its march to become a world leader in green energy, renewables have been incorporated into Beijing's Five-year-plans and earlier this month, according to Reuters, the government announced it was plowing 2.5 trillion yuan ($361 billion) into renewable power generation by 2020.
China's economic slowdown and energy glut
But China's quest to become a green energy dependent country is actually fraught with problems. Case in point - Officials in Qinghai province are so confident of the future of renewables, they are planning two massive new solar parks on the Tibetan plateau, with the capacity to produce 4GW of energy. This is despite the existing solar farm not being used to full capacity.
As was reported in Digital Journal on January 14, global investments in clean energy fell by 18 percent to $287.5 billion last year, after posting a record high of $348.5 billion in 2015. China's investments totaled $87.8 billion in 2016, down 26 percent from an all-time high of $119.1 billion in 2015.
Between 2009 and 2015 the cost of solar power fell by 80 percent  making it competitive against gas ...
Between 2009 and 2015 the cost of solar power fell by 80 percent, making it competitive against gas and coal in some countries
Jack Guez, AFP/File
As the Guardian points out, despite the billions invested in renewable energy by Beijing, wind power still accounted for just 4.0 percent of China’s electricity last year and solar power came in at a weak 1.0 percent.
China is grappling with an economic slowdown that has also created less demand for electricity across the country. Beijing has been trying to reign in many energy projects, in particular, those for coal-fired power plants. It is really more of a situation where the right-hand doesn't know what the left-hand is doing.
While authority was given back to local provincial officials when it came to authorizing many big projects, this created a situation where some provinces, wanting to impress Beijing with their willingness to accept green energy just went overboard. Then there were the officials that chose to cater to companies that depended on fossil fuels, giving the go-ahead to additional coal-fired plants.
And with all its problems economically, Beijing still has an angry population demanding that the government do something about the pollution, and China is the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gasses. But China also has to figure out a way to overcome political and practical obstacles, including resistance to renewable energy from local governments and a lack of turbines near major cities before it really does become a world leader in renewable energy.
More about China, Wind farm, Renewables, solar farms, economic factors
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