Amazing as it may sound, that two-coal-fired-power-plants-a-week building orgy going on in China could prove to be completely unnecessary.
It was on Twitter that I discovered a kinda wonky news service that calls itself SciDevNet (I think I’ve got the capitalization right…) that just ran a story headlined “Wind power could blow away coal in China.”
Do tell! This could be significant.
Seems that by 2030 China could be getting all its juice from wind turbines. There is a tradeoff, though: They’d have to cover an area three-quarters the size of Texas with those big propellers.
As with the idea of blanketing much of the United States’ southwestern deserts with solar arrays, you have to wonder what kind of environmental effects that might have. For example, what will this do to migrating birds? It’s a question we’ve been asking ourselves here at InvestigateWest as we report on the Pacific Flyway.
But when you consider what an environmental and human disaster Chinas’ Three Gorges Dam is becoming, and the population growth the country is facing, wind turbines seem like something that’s at least got to be considered. (What about solar? Folks — are there downsides to solar other than the fact that it uses water in the desert? We’re all ears.)
SciDevNet’s Shanshan Li and Yidong Gong tell us that the study they’re writing about, by Chinese and U.S. researchers and published recently in Science (it’s here but you gotta pay), estimates this would cost $900 billion over the next two decades. As with the projected costs of fixing the U.S. health-care system, that number looks pretty small when you divide it by 20 and compare it to the overall world economy.
As in the United States, though, the wind resources in the north and west of China aren’t near the population centers in the east and south. So there’s a lot of grid-building to do, and the farther you have to move the juice, the less efficient the whole enterprise would be.
— Robert McClure