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China’s Growth in Wind Power Stays Parabolic [Chart]



China's Growth in Wind Power Stays Parabolic [Chart]

China’s Growth in Wind Power Stays Parabolic [Chart]

The Chart of the Week is a weekly feature in Visual Capitalist on Fridays.

It was only five years ago that China passed the United States in cumulative wind power capacity. Since then, the country hasn’t looked back and growth in wind power generation has continued exponentially.

The most recent numbers show that China now has more total wind capacity than the United States, India, and Spain combined. Even more impressive: for the year of 2014, China added 23,196 MW of new installed capacity, which is close to double that of the European Union’s growth in capacity over the same year (11,829 MW).

Why is China so bullish on wind? The answer is that because China is a quickly growing country, more power infrastructure has to be built each year to meet consumption growth. Meanwhile, for developed countries in North America and Europe, tinkering with the power grid happens on a smaller scale as adequate infrastructure already exists.

China’s power mix was not optimal to start with. In 2012, it was estimated that two-thirds of the country’s electricity was generated by coal. Coal will still be a big part of the mix moving forward, but the country is trying to diversify into nuclear as well as wind energy. That’s why wind is now the third most important source of electricity in the nation behind coal and hydro.

The growth in wind is not expected to stop soon. The Gansu Wind Farm Project is currently under construction and highlights China’s thirst for additional wind energy. When completed and operational, it is expected to become the world’s biggest collective windfarm.

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Charted: The Safest and Deadliest Energy Sources

What are the safest energy sources? This graphic shows both GHG emissions and accidental deaths caused by different energy sources.



Safest energy sources shareable updated

Charted: The Safest and Deadliest Energy Sources

Recent conversations about climate change, emissions, and health have put a spotlight on the world’s energy sources.

As of 2021, nearly 90% of global CO₂ emissions came from fossil fuels. But energy production doesn’t just lead to carbon emissions, it can also cause accidents and air pollution that has a significant toll on human life.

This graphic by Ruben Mathisen uses data from Our World in Data to help visualize exactly how safe or deadly these energy sources are.

Fossil Fuels are the Highest Emitters

All energy sources today produce greenhouse gases either directly or indirectly. However, the top three GHG-emitting energy sources are all fossil fuels.

EnergyGHG Emissions (CO₂e/gigawatt-hour)
Coal820 tonnes
Oil720 tonnes
Natural Gas490 tonnes
Biomass78-230 tonnes
Hydropower34 tonnes
Solar5 tonnes
Wind4 tonnes
Nuclear3 tonnes

Coal produces 820 tonnes of CO₂ equivalent (CO₂e) per gigawatt-hour. Not far behind is oil, which produces 720 tonnes CO₂e per gigawatt-hour. Meanwhile, natural gas produces 490 tonnes of CO₂e per gigawatt-hour.

These three sources contribute to over 60% of the world’s energy production.

Deadly Effects

Generating energy at a massive scale can have other side effects, like air pollution or accidents that take human lives.

Energy SourcesDeath rate (deaths/terawatt-hour)
Natural Gas2.8
Nuclear energy0.03

According to Our World in Data, air pollution and accidents from mining and burning coal fuels account for around 25 deaths per terawatt-hour of electricity—roughly the amount consumed by about 150,000 EU citizens in one year. The same measurement sees oil responsible for 18 annual deaths, and natural gas causing three annual deaths.

Meanwhile, hydropower, which is the most widely used renewable energy source, causes one annual death per 150,000 people. The safest energy sources by far are wind, solar, and nuclear energy at fewer than 0.1 annual deaths per terawatt-hour.

Nuclear energy, because of the sheer volume of electricity generated and low amount of associated deaths, is one of the world’s safest energy sources, despite common perceptions.

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