I’m going to keep today’s rant short. If you use social media, you’ve probably seen this graphic touting China’s growing use of wind power. (Minus the red stamp that I added.)
China has installed an impressive number of wind turbines over the last few years — but nothing close to what the above graphic implies. Here are the numbers you need to see why the Greenpeace claim is misleading:
First: In 2014, wind turbines generated an amazing 153.4 TWh of electricity. That’s more than the total generated by Norway (147.8 TWh in 2012). And, as you can see in the chart below, it’s also more electricity than China generated from nuclear power (130.5 TWhs).
And here’s a chart from the U.S. Energy Information Agency showing electricity generation in the United States by source. (I’ve highlighted nuclear generation for 2014.)
The grand total for nuclear is 797.0 TWhs in 2014. Admittedly, math isn’t my strong point. But I’m pretty sure that 797 > 153.54.
There’s a bit of sleight-of-hand going on in the Greenpeace graphic and it centers around the word “can.” As in, “China’s wind farms can now produce…” I suspect they’re using what’s known as the “installed capacity” for wind turbines in China. Installed capacity is the theoretical output from a given source. Under optimal wind conditions, a 3 MW wind turbine will produce 3 MW of electricity at any given moment. But to compare the capacity factor of a wind turbine with that of a nuclear power plant is woefully misleading.
China’s installed capacity for wind stand at around 115,000 MW. U.S. nuclear power plants have an installed capacity of 100,000 MW. So, it looks like this is the voodoo-math Greenpeace used for their claim in the graphic.
China is adding sources of renewable generation at a fevered-pitch. Misleading numbers only detract from that story.