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To Avoid Competition with Farmers, China's Enacts Stricter Solar and Wind Power Policies

published: 2022-09-02 9:30

Floods, droughts and food problems brought about by extreme climate have caused China to adjust its solar and wind power generation policies in order to avoid competition with between the people and farmers and renewable energy.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has announced a goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2060, so he has vigorously built solar and wind power in the past two years but COVID-19 and recent extreme weather have made China aware of the risk of its food supply, considering limited arable land. There are still as many as 1.4 billion people and it is certain that solar and wind power developers will encounter more and more challenges in the future.

China is already the world's largest renewable energy country with 679 GW of wind and solar and another 390 GW of hydropower. China has also added more than a fifth of its solar and wind power generation since 2020, and will hit its 2030 target of 1,200GW more than five years early if local governments go ahead with green energy expansion plans.

However, China's Ministry of Water Resources issued new regulations in May that prohibit the construction of solar and wind energy on some waterways, lakes and reservoirs, hoping to protect the ecology and prevent overdevelopment and damage to flood control. In addition, China's Ministry of Natural Resources is also working on a draft that would ban the construction of solar power plants on arable land or forests.

This shift in wind direction has also left local governments hesitant and a floating solar power plant in Jiangsu province, which has a capacity of 1 GW and covers 70 percent of a lake, has had its modules removed, which authorities believe hinders the discharge of floodwater.

Qin Yan, an analyst at Refinitiv, pointed out that because new renewable energy is regarded as a "political achievement," many local governments have overexploited renewable energy such as solar and wind energy in the past but apparently some plans violated relevant regulations such as ecological protection and cultivated land protection, causing related issues and getting the attention of relevant units. Efforts are being made to monitor the situation.

In order not to let renewable energy and the environment interfere with each other, an alternative strategy is to integrate the renewable energy system into the farm without reducing food production or affecting livestock, such as installing solar energy on the roof of the barn carefully selecting the location of wind turbine installation, etc. China also launched a rooftop solar program last year with the goal of covering more than half of new public buildings and factories with solar panels by 2025.

Another strategy is to move power plants westward and if renewable energy cannot be built in the densely populated and fertile eastern areas, then them move to the less populated western regions or mountains and deserts with lower agricultural potential, or make good use of abandoned mines, etc. At present, China has begun to build 100GW of similar solar and wind energy projects in the desert. In addition, it plans to build 450GW before 2030. However, sparsely populated land is thousands of kilometers away from cities and industrial centers and the cost of power transmission is very high. .

Now China is also working hard to build new transmission lines in various places. There are currently 33 ultra-high voltage transmission lines in China and the State Grid is investing 380 billion yuan to build 38 more between 2021 and 2025.

(Image:taylorandayumi, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

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