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China just built more offshore wind forests than all other nations combined

GENERATING ENERGY? It’s a breeze—literally. China built more offshore wind capacity just in 2021 than the rest of the world managed in total over the past five years, Carbon Brief reported yesterday.

“Its 26 gigawatts now accounts for half of the world’s 54 gw total,” said Simon Evans, deputy editor of the science publication. It’s a stunning boost for the world’s race to use renewable energy instead of fossil fuel.

Forests of wind turbines are appearing in the sea to take advantage of ocean breezes, including in the waters of Guangdong in southern China, not far from Hong Kong.

Although China’s huge population means it is unable to reduce coal dependence for several years, it has a long-term plan to phase out dirty fuels and replace them with renewables, with ambitious targets set over multiple years.

Graphic from Carbon Brief

The sudden growth in capacity has surprised journalists focused on green solutions. “The UK was previously the world’s number one nation for installed offshore wind capacity, with 10 GW,” Evans said. “China just built one and half times that amount in a single year.”

Although China won’t be able to phase out fossil fuels entirely until 2060, the country has become the world’s biggest investor in all main forms of renewable energy, from wind power to solar panel usage.

While the latest statistics came as good news to environmental scientists, several noted that the process had been taking place quietly for a long time, although it was not widely reported.

“A decade back, China committed to massive offshore wind targets, then realized that the technology wasn’t commercially ready,” said Tim Buckley of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. “Onshore was far more cost competitive.” So the Chinese focused on land-based wind power and solar energy until their research and development projects in off shore wind farms came to fruition, he said.

Symon Clew, a supplier of energy monitoring devices, said: “I saw how much China was investing in renewables back in 2014, but that’s not the narrative the press wanted.”

Image at the top shows Donghai Bridge Wind Farm, near Shanghai, by SS Young/ Wikimedia Commons

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