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[BEIJING] China has opened a new centre to assess its potential to generate wind and solar energy.

The Centre for Wind and Solar Energy Assessment, part of the China Meteorology Administration, opened last week (14 June).

It will assess how much energy can be generated through wind and solar power in key Chinese regions, generate estimates of the wind energy potential at specific locations to help plan for wind power plants, and evaluate the impact of natural disasters, such as sand storms, on the operation of the wind power plants.

It will also carry out nationwide surveys of China's solar energy potential.

In 2005, China generated 1.26 million kilowatts in wind energy. Scientists estimate that this number could be increased to 3.3 billion kilowatts for land-based wind energy alone.

China's medium and long-term development plan for sustainable energy released in 2004 predicts that by 2020, wind power will supply 30 million kilowatts per year.

Zhang Qiang, a senior researcher of the Centre for Wind and Solar Energy Assessment, says that China's current wind forecasts are not precise enough to allow scientists to estimate how much wind energy could be generated in various regions.

The new centre will seek to refine the geographical aspect of wind forecasts. Currently, the smallest area that forecasts can resolve is 100 square kilometres.

Zhang says that when it comes to deciding where to place wind power plants, this resolution is not good enough. The new centre will try to develop and improve the resolution down to five square kilometres.