China sets pace in installation of wind turbines
CHINA installed more than a third of the world's new wind turbines last year and is on course to beat the government's 2015 target of 100 gigawatts of generation capacity, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) data.
Wind energy in China now accounts for 5.3 per cent of the country's generating capacity and supplies about 2 per cent of its electricity, placing it behind coal and hydro power.
While new installations slowed from 2011's record levels, China's 15.9GW of new wind capacity exceeded the 15.5GW of new hydro power and dwarfed the 1.2GW of solar and 700 megawatts of nuclear capacity added last year.
"This year however, project approvals have sped up and we forecast a modest recovery in both financing activity and construction in 2013," said Demi Zhu, China wind analyst at BNEF. "The fact that China wind overtook nuclear as a generation source even in its most challenging year of recent times is a testament to the massive scale and momentum of the industry in this country."
China's adoption of renewable energy has surprised many. Some Australian commentators project wind and solar to contribute only 0.3 per cent of China's electricity supply by 2020.
Last year, the country added 80GW of capacity - larger than Australia's total - with coal-fired power accounting for about 60 per cent of that increase, BNEF said.
New investment in wind was worth $US27.2 billion ($26.1 billion) in 2012, down 12 per cent. Turbine costs, though, fell 10 per cent as suppliers, mostly home-grown, cut prices.
Connection difficulties mean that about 20 per cent of installed capacity is yet to be plugged into the grid, BNEF said.
Developers of wind farms in Australia have cause for cheer after a study commissioned by South Australia's Environment Protection Authority into infrasound levels near wind farms gave the industry its stamp of approval.
"The level of infrasound at houses near the wind turbines assessed is no greater than that experienced in other urban and rural environments, and ... the contribution of wind turbines to the measured infrasound levels is insignificant," the report found.
The policy director of Clean Energy, Russell Marsh, said the findings show the "real contributors to infrasound are things like airconditioners, traffic and urban office environments - not wind farms".
"This is yet another clean bill of health for wind farms, which have been proven time and time again to cause no negative health impacts."