Mongolia is turning to wind power, despite its significant coal reserves

» By | Published 07 Sep 2010
Mongolia, wind turbine by Elke Zander

Mongolia, wind turbine by Elke Zander

Mongolia has recently indicated it wants to become part of an international green energy revolution by harnessing vast amounts of wind energy for export to its power-hungry neighbour China.

Stories and blog postings last week reported that the remote land-locked country in northern Asia has indicated it would like the development of wind, solar and other renewable energies to be subsidized by the nation’s considerable mining projects.

A Wall Street Journal posting noted that Mongolian Prime Minister Sukhbaatar Batbold discussed at a special cabinet meeting in the Gobi Desert the county’s plans for massive investments “in alternative energy and to export wind power to China — enough to equal 40 million tons of coal.”
The posting added that while the mineral-rich nation of three million people exports a lot of coal to help meet China’s rising demand for energy resources, it is also increasingly aware that the use of coal has a major environmental downside in terms of pollution — which includes greenhouse gas emissions.

It also noted that the significant environmental consequences associated with burning coal could create financial problems. “While Mongolia has a lot of coal, it is a matter of time before coal-based power plants will become subject to carbon penalties,” the posting quoted B. Bold, chief executive of Newcom Group, an investment group building a wind-power-generation plant in the country, as saying.

In addition to the possibility of harnessing large amounts of wind power, cabinet ministers at the special meeting in Gashuunii Khooloi, approximately 670 kilometers south of Ulan-Bator, also discussed how Mongolia is dealing with desertification, deforestation and limited water supplies.

Associated Press reported Mongolian officials donned dark green baseball caps reading “Save our planet” and set up chairs and tables in the sand for the meeting aimed at drawing attention to climate change and sustainable development.
“Mongolia is feeling the impact of global climate change,” the report quoted Batbold saying at the meeting.

The story also said the Mongolian government blames global warming for a decrease in rainfall and says rising average temperatures have caused many rivers and springs to dry up and snow cover to melt. Elke Zander, Campaigns Officer at EWEA who recently visited Mongolia, was told by locals that a major river running close to the Russian border and Lake Baikal, has recently dried up.

Mongolia, yurt. By Elke Zander

Mongolia, yurt. By Elke Zander

Zander was more than impressed by locals and nomads all over the country who are using renewable energy to power their homes. In addition to several small wind turbines, she saw many solar panels next to local’s yurts (traditional Mongolian tents) that are taking advantage of powerful sun and wind in the ‘Land of the Blue Sky’.

How important is it for resource-rich countries like Mongolia to also develop a domestic wind power industry? Please make your comments below.

Categories: Climate change