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China to Harness More Wind Power

Alternative sources of energy are starting to make more of an appearance in China as the country looks to relieve its over-reliance on coal and oil. But harnessing renewable sources such as wind is far from plain sailing.


50-year-old Xu Zhiyou has to work without power today. Actually he has to work without power for three days in every week. Residents like him, living in east Zhejiang's countryside, have had to cope with a whole summer of power shortages. But the answer to his problems may not be far away. Just above his village is a group of futuristic looking wind turbines -- generating power.


He said "Wind energy might be good, there is always wind, not like water or coal which might run out soon."


There is certainly a lot of wind here. Up the 1,200-meter Kuocang mountain, it blows a gale all year round. Builder and manager of the wind farm, Zhu Yaohua leads a small band of workers who maintain the 33 large turbines on the top of the mountain. Zhu's wind farm has been up and running at a profit for six years, but he says they have to rely on imported technology, which is not always suitable to local conditions. Zhu said "The problem with imported Danish generators is that they can't cope with the humidity in here and we suffer an annual loss of 1 million yuan with frozen fans."


The plant produces 80,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a day. It's not enough to feed a town of 500,000 people. Zhu is always waiting for typhoons and storms to generate more power.


China could generate around 1 billion kilowatts of wind energy a year. But so far it only taps into a fraction of that amount -- 0.0005 percent. The main obstacle is money. Wind farms are an expensive business and investors are hesitating, especially when it is double the cost of generating electricity from coal. But money is not the only cost to be considered.


Zhu Yaohua said, "The costs to human health and the environment of coal burning have not been included into coal power generation, let alone the using up of natural resources."


The urgent need for energy has, until now, clouded people's long-term vision. But with China planning to promote renewable energy in its legislation, Zhu hopes that one day soon he'll see many more turbines spinning on the horizon.


(CCTV.com August 6, 2004)


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