To convert wind and sun into electricity, you’ll need land first. Many acres of land, ideally undeveloped, where dozens of wind turbines and hundreds of solar panels can be installed. Bringing all that green energy to highly populated business areas necessitates another step: Thousands of kilometers of ultra-high-voltage power cables buzzing with electricity noisily.
China, the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gases, will be unable to accomplish its environmental goals unless it connects its rich renewable energy sources to its coastal megacities. It aims to have sufficient wind and solar capacity to generate 1,200 gigawatts by 2030, which is enough to meet all of the United States’ electricity demands. It’s investing in a nationwide network of power lines to connect it to the grid, which, according to one estimate, will require 30 years as well as cost $300 billion, compared to the latest 10-year, $65 billion appropriations to grid facilities by the US Congress.
The expanding number of wires crisscrossing the nation from one big pylon to the next is costly, noisy, and a blight on the countryside, according to many. However, most countries are in the same boat as China. The finest locations for harvesting wind and solar energy are far from the individuals who demand it. Ultra-high voltage cables are currently the only option, and most economies are far behind. Brazil is now the only country with fully operational UHV lines, and both were built by a Chinese company. There are 30 in China.
“I don’t know how you reach there without the UHV power lines if you want inexpensive, secure, and clean power,” remarked Michael Skelly, who works as a senior advisor at the Lazard Ltd. located in Houston and the founder of the Grid United LLC, which is a United States energy infrastructure firm.
The issue is one of distance and storage. Coal mining is also typically done far from cities, although coal, as well as other fossil fuels, may be transported to power plants that are closer to them. The energy itself travels only a short distance. With renewables, this isn’t possible. Wind and sunshine cannot be put onto trucks and transported to other locations.
Direct current (DC) lines, the larger the better, are required to transmit the electrons over hundreds of kilometers. The greater the voltage, the lower power is wasted in small increments. The UHV lines connecting Xinjiang, Qinghai, and Yunnan to Beijing, Chongqing, and Jiangsu carry enough electricity to power ten power plants. That is why they must be suspended so high above the earth.
President Xi Jinping unveiled a series of wind and solar projects in October, the first of which will add roughly 100 gigawatts (GWs) of power, or sufficient to power Mexico for a year. Qinghai offers several advantages over the other six interior locations that have been chosen to host a new crop of solar and wind projects. It’s windy, bright, and unpopulated. It’s also where the Yellow River begins.