China’s Wind Energy Capacity Reached Record Levels in 2011

China installed a record 18,000 megawatts of new wind energy in 2011, boosting its total capacity to nearly 63,000 megawatts and widening its lead in the global wind energy sector, according to the Earth Policy Institute (EPI). The U.S., which was passed by China for total wind capacity, installed about 6,800 megawatts, increasing its total capacity to 47,000 megawatts, or enough to power 10 million homes. Worldwide, energy developers installed 41,000 megawatts of capacity during the year, increasing the global total to 283,000 megawatts — enough to provide electricity to 380 million people at European levels of consumption. China is expected to widen its lead as the global leader in wind energy, with a series of mega-complexes planned in the nation’s northern provinces that could boost total capacity to 140,000 megawatts by 2020, which would surpass the total global capacity at the end of 2008. However, many turbines now stand idle in remote parts of the country as upgrades to the electric grid and transmission lines lag behind turbine construction, according to EPI. As a result, Chinese regulators have capped the allowed new wind capacity at 15,000 to 20,000 megawatts.