China, the World's Biggest Polluter, Will Soon Be a Wind Energy Giant

The country could help transition the world onto renewables.

A Siemens Offshore wind turbine

China is set to lead the way in generating offshore wind power, doubling the amount it adds to the grid per year by 2025, according to a report released this week. And offshore wind power is predicted to increase from one-tenth of total wind power today to one quarter of total wind power by 2023.

That China is set to become a world leader in offshore wind power generation, and that offshore wind power will player a bigger role in the world’s energy generation, were just two of the findings in the Global Wind Energy Council annual report, promoted by the World Economic Forum Wednesday.

“The growth of offshore will be unstoppable,” says Adolfo Rebollo, CEO of power technology firm Ingeteam, declares in the report.

Wind power that comes from turbines off the coasts of the world’s countries could reduce reliance on fossil fuels which create CO2 emissions and are warming up the planet. And China, the world’s biggest polluter, is now set to be the world’s biggest producer of offshore wind energy.

Offshore wind energy, which grew by 20 percent last year, is expected to help the whole sector continue to grow in a big way. As the chart below shows, by 2023, offshore wind energy could account for 17 percent of all new installations, e.g., the wind turbines that are erected just off the coast.

The council's predictions for the coming years.
The council's predictions for the coming years.

China, which in 2018, was found to spend triple as much on renewable energy as the United States, is already leading the way in terms of new offshore installations. China’s experience phenomenal growth in building offshore wind installations. In 2018, 40 percent of all the world’s offshore wind installations were built in China.

The United Kingdom came in second place on 29 percent, while Germany accounted for 22 percent.

Meanwhile, China offshore wind installations represent 20 percent of the world’s offshore wind capacity, while Germany is on 28 percent and the United Kingdom in first place on 34 percent.

In total, 51.3 gigawatts of new wind capacity were added to the market in 2018. That’s a decrease of four percent compared to 2017, but also the fifth year in a row that wind power installations accounted for 50 gigawatts or more of the world’s energy.

The Global Wind Energy Council reported in February that 11.9 gigawatts came from North, Central and South America, and overall capacity in the Americas reached 135 gigawatts.

Morten Dyrholm, chairman of the council, says that installations of wind capacity overtook new fossil fuel capacity in many mature and emerging markets for the first time in 2018.

“Wind energy is now one of the cheapest forms of electricity in many markets,” Dyrholm observes in the report.

More innovation is on the way in this developing energy sector. The United Nations unveiled a bold idea this month to develop floating cities, using wind and solar to create zero-emissions communities. Another idea developed by Madrid’s UC3M is to use kites at high altitudes to harvest wind.

With 2018 the fourth-hottest year on record, these changes can’t come soon enough.

Bernd Aufderheide, president and CEO of Hamburg Messe und Congress, says the wind industry can help curb pollution.

“Reducing global CO2 emissions is one of the great challenges of our time,” Aufderheide comments in the report. “In many parts of the world, however, it appears more than uncertain whether the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement will be achieved.

“Without doubt the wind industry has a prominent part to play in the concert of solution strategies.”