Wind Power as a mature strategy for electricity generation for China, but bad news for Australia

From an article in the UK’s Daily Telegraph.
Is China really going green?

According to this article China has recently set goals of generating 100 GW of electricity from Wind and 70 GW from Nuclear by 2020. The thing that sticks out is that China is committing more to wind power generation than nuclear.

I accept that the goals may be lofty however China is a country that does not have to rely on popularity contests for its leadership. It does have severe punishments for bureaucrats that mess up. I would have to go with the track record and say that if China fails it will not be by much.

Both goals are substantial and while a significant amount of power will be generated by coal, Australians may have to rethink our growth projections for the coal industry.


Nuclear vs Alternate energy – playing with AUD$10 Billion




The state of the Art Nuclear reactor is the European Pressurised Reactor, one of which is being constructed at Olkiluoto Finland. Originally estimated to cost €3.7 billion however now with speculated cost over run of €1.5 billion (total cost in AUD$10.2 billion). It is designed to generate 1600 MW and have an operating life of 60 years. 

I will admit the total cost figure is a bit rubbery. It is difficult to discover hidden subsidies given to sustain industries that are considered strategically important to maintaining nuclear arsenals. There is no estimate of moneys set aside for the deconstruction of the plant.  (Imagine telling some CEO that AUD$ 2 billion must be set aside for the next sixty years.)


Ausra solar thermal

Ausra solar thermal

Ausra, a company spun off using technology developed by Australia’s CSIRO is building a plant to generate 177 Megawatt at a cost of  US$550 million. Converting at todays rate this would cost AUD$880 million. AUD $10 billion would build you enough plant to generate 2000 megawatt (25% more than the Olkiluoto plant). Yes, it would take up more space but Australia is neither short of Sunshine or space. A very important advantage is that there would very little that we would need to purchase overseas. 

Grid Connected Solar

Home Solar (Braemac Energy)

Home Solar (Braemac Energy)

Using figures derived from a webpage of BRAEMAC energy (Rough guide only for back of envelope calculations) where the company gives an estimate for materials and labour of AUD$30 000 for 3.2 kilowatt system. AUD $10 Billion would pay for 333 thousand installations generating 1066 megawatt at peak.

The solar panels used in the quote are made by Suntech a company started by one of my Chinese-Australian heroes, Dr Zhengrong Shi. Suntech, the worlds largest producer of solar panels could provide all the panels required. Being a dynamic company employing newer technologies, Suntech could achieve the cost reductions so that for AUD$10 billion more than 1600 megawatt could be produced at peak.


Wikipedia gives an estimate of €1300 per kilowatt installed cost(2007). Change to AUD and you find that AUD$10 billion will buy 3900 megawatt of wind power. 

In Australia with our open spaces, why couldn’t we build a 1000km long wind turbine “spine” composed 400 to 500 5 Mw turbines running close to our major transmission gridlines.

Saving – shifting from Standby to Nil power

Charles Hugh Smith supplied an estimate of 5% of electricity production is just for standby power. Conveniently this is almost the same as the power that would be produced by one state of the art 1600 megawatt nuclear power station. Since this would be achieved by regulation, education and retro-fitting, it is difficult to put a dollar value on this.

Ropatecs demonstration installation at Bolzano Italy

Ropatec's demonstration installation at Bolzano Italy

Using a multi-faceted approach, allowing AUD$ 1 billion in cost of regulation and education over ten years still leaves AUD$9 billion to used for retro-fitting older buildings with solar and wind turbines it is hard to believe you could not achieve savings and new generation equivalent to a 1600 megawatt nuclear power station.


To build a state of the art 1600 megawatt nuclear power plant in Australia would cost over AUD$10 billion. This is approximately twice the cost of the Snowy Mountain Scheme. For the same amount of money more electricity can be generated by big project Solar Thermal and Wind.