A team of environmental scientists from Harvard and Tsinghua University have demonstrated the enormous potential for wind-generated electricity in China. Using extensive meteorological data, the researchers have estimated that wind alone has the potential to meet the country’s projected electricity demands for 2030.

While wind-generated energy currently accounts for only 0.4 percent of China’s total electricity supply, the country is rapidly becoming the world’s fastest growing market for wind power.

The researchers, led by Michael B. McElroy, Professor of Environmental Studies at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, used meteorological data from the Goddard Earth Observing Data Assimilation System at NASA. They assumed the wind energy would be produced from a set of land-based, 1.5-megawatt turbines operating over non-forested, ice-free, rural areas with a slope no more than 20 percent.

The analysis found that a network of wind turbines operating at just 20 percent of their rated capacity could provide as much as 24.7 petawatt-hours of electricity annually – more than seven times China’s current consumption. This would meet the country’s entire projected demand for electricity for 2030.

To do this would require an investment of about $900 billion over twenty years. This is not considered an unreasonable sum considering that it would replace China’s investment in fossil fuel plants. China is currenly adding about one gigawatt of fossil-fuel generating capacity every week.