Unpredictability of wind energy makes it hard to compete with coal in China

CCTV News

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China is the world’s largest producer of wind power, with a current capacity of 75 gigawatts — more than 20 times the largest coal power plant in the United States. But with so much clean energy at its fingertips, why is the country still reliant on coal as its main energy source?

CCTV’s Guan Yang reports from Liaoning province.

Unpredictability of wind energy makes it hard to compete with coal in China

Unpredictability of wind energy makes it hard to compete with coal in China

China is the world's largest producer of wind power, with a current capacity of 75 gigawatts -- more than 20 times the largest coal power plant in the United States. But with so much clean energy at its fingertips, why is the country still reliant on coal as its main energy source?

Wind turbines were virtually non-existent in China a decade ago, but now they are all over the country. Despite their ubiquity, the disadvantages of wind power are numerous.

For one, it’s unpredictable. It’s also a fluctuating source of energy. In areas without consistent wind or where wind strength is too low to support the turbines, the heavy upfront investments often go to waste.”

Most wind farms have a real-time prediction system to optimize operational efficiency. They are also given an estimated demand so that power transmission can be better coordinated.

“Other than output plans, the prediction system also helps us to arrange a timetable of maintenance and testing when winds are weak,” Woniushan Wind Farm Operator Hu Bowen said.

However much of China’s wind energy goes to waste due to a preference for more stable forms of energy such as coal. Only a small portion of energy storage facilities use wind power.

“With the current electricity price, wind farms stand no chance to break — even if investing in storage facilities, unless some form of compensation are granted,” Woniushan Wind Farm Manager Luo Wenhao said.