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Eighteen months ago, China, which has been the world’s largest air polluter for nearly a decade, announced that for the first time it would put an absolute cap on greenhouse gas emissions. While the sentiment was roundly welcomed, China’s intentions were met with some skepticism.
After all, the promise on June 3, 2014, by He Jiankun, the chairman of China’s Advisory Committee on Climate Change, came only a day after the United States announced a similar plan. He said at the time that the reductions would begin in 2016 and result primarily from lower reliance on coal-fired power plants.
That seemed reassuring on its face, but one expert who attended He’s announcement questioned China’s sincerity. Frank Jotzo, an Australian National University climate economist, wondered whether Beijing’s promise may be a merely symbolic and a cynical attempt to compete with Washington for leadership on climate change.
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Yet since then, China appears to be showing that it means to clean up its environment. Its leading wind-power company has begun construction of the country’s largest such project so far, a wind farm on Nanri, one of a small group of islands in the Taiwan Strait off the coast of the province of Fujian, local officials said Friday.
The farm will have a capacity of 400 megawatts and, when complete in 2018, will yield as many as 1.4 billion kilowatt hours of electricity each year. That would go a long way to He’s goal because the wind farm’s power will be the equivalent of burning 450,000 metric tons of coal. It also would save 4.4 million metric tons of water that would be needed for coal-fired energy generation.
Since 2005 Nanri has been the site of a smaller wind farm that has provided electricity reliably to its 50,000 inhabitants. It is seen as ideal for generating wind energy because it experiences an average of 320 windy days a year; it’s even prone to hurricanes and typhoons.
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Construction of the farm, which was approved by Nanri’s local government in November, will be handled by Longyuan Power Group Corp. Ltd. and cost an estimated $1.28 billion, according to records of the Fujian Development and Reform Commission.
As big as the Nanri farm will be, it will pale in comparison to two other wind projects being planned in China, each of which, when completed, is expected to have a capacity of 600 megawatts of electricity.
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China pledged in June 2014 to reduce its reliance on coal by using renewable sources like wind, solar, hydropower and biomass. Already, in 2010, it became the world’s largest producer of wind-powered energy, and in 2014 it was generating 35 gigawatts of energy from renewable sources, more than Britain, France and the United States combined.
Further, it plans an expansion, estimated to cost $100 billion, to increase its domestic nuclear power capacity from its level of 20.3 gigawatts at the end of 2014 to 58 gigawatts by 2020. Still, by that time, nuclear energy would account for only about 3 percent of the electricity the country uses each year.
By Andy Tully Of Oilprice.com
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Andy Tully is a veteran news reporter who is now the news editor for Oilprice.com