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Nation builds its biggest wind farm New age dawns for energy output

Shi Jiangtao, SCMP

The nation will break ground on its largest wind farm project in about two weeks in Gansu province in the northwest as part of a major push for renewable energy in the coming decades.

Dubbed “the Three Gorges Dam on the land”, the planned wind power plants in Jiuquan will have an installed capacity by 2020 comparable to the world’s biggest hydropower project on the Yangtze River, Xinhua reported yesterday. It said work would start in mid-July.

As one of seven onshore wind power bases that Beijing is planning, the Gansu project would usher in a new era for the wind power sector and the government’s green energy campaign, analysts said.

The 120 billion yuan (HK$136 billion) project had been approved by the National Development and Reform Commission, Xinhua said. “It will become another landmark project in the development of the western provinces after the Qinghai -Tibet rail link and oil and gas pipelines linking the western and coastal provinces,” Wu Shengxue , deputy head of the Jiuquan Municipal Development and Reform Commission was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

The wind farms were also expected to help ease power shortages in northern and eastern areas, including Beijing and Shanghai, he added.

The total installed capacity of the wind farms is expected to increase from 660MW now to 5,160MW next year, 12,710MW in 2015 and 20,000MW in 2020.

With a designed capacity of 22,500MW, the 185-metre-tall Three Gorges Dam currently has an installed capacity of 18,200MW with six generators still under construction.

Jiang Kejun , director of the National Development and Reform Commission’s Energy Research Institute, said the wind farm project was not expected to beat the dam in terms of power generation capacity because wind power was not as stable as hydropower.

Beijing last month more than doubled its target for wind power capacity by next year from last year’s 12,000MW to some 30,000MW and promised to spend an additional 100 billion yuan in the sector.

The mainland’s installed wind power capacity has roughly doubled in each of the past four years after Beijing ordered power distributors to buy all of the nation’s wind power output, and offered developers tax incentives.

Dr Jiang said China, one of the world’s biggest energy consumers and polluters, had quickened its push for alternative energy to reduce its over-reliance on coal, and curb emissions of greenhouse gases. He said the cost of wind power had been cut significantly in recent years, which made it more competitive compared to coal-fired power generation. “Providing equipment for wind farms also proved to be a good opportunity for the manufacturing sector on the mainland,” he said.

China, ranked fourth in the world in wind power capacity, also plans to build wind power bases in Xinjiang , Hebei , Jilin , Inner Mongolia and Jiangsu to increase wind power capacity to 100,000MW by 2020, accounting for about 10 per cent of the country’s total power generation capacity.

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