Wind Power Growing at Tangshanpeng, China, Wind Farm
Wind Power Growing at Tangshanpeng, China, Wind Farm

Covering renewable energy achievements, United States President Barack Obama noted that US wind power generation is number one in the world, but that’s not the whole story.

True, wind power generation in the United States is the biggest in the world, just over 175 TWh (terawatt-hours), just ahead of China, which produced 169 TWh last year. On the other hand, wind power capacity in the US and China is a different story, and it looks like China could soon outpace the US to become biggest wind power producer in the world.

Currently, China’s wind power capacity reaches 110 GW (gigawatts), while US capacity sits at just 66 GW, but why the difference in generation? Apparently, China wind speeds are somewhat lower, on average, and in the US, at least in places where wind turbines have been erected. A bigger problem for China, however, is that wind turbine installation is outpacing the infrastructure to support it, which means that slight improvements in infrastructure will boost utilization.

Unfortunately, at the same time that China is advancing wind turbine installations, the opposite is occurring in the US. In 2014, China added some 18 GW of wind power capacity, while the US only added about 4.9 GW. The problem is the way that the US incentivizes renewable energy and, in spite of the fact that wind power is indeed cheaper than any other power source, the constant back-and-forth on renewable energy incentives keeps it from being an attractive business option.

In 2013, for example, some 30,000 wind power jobs were lost, thanks to the expiration of the Production Tax Credit. By the time the incentive was renewed in December 2014, it was too late for investors to meet eligibility requirements. Will US wind power bounce back this year, or will China be the world’s biggest producer by 2016?

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