China’s wind-based power generation capability could hit 230GW (gigawatts) of installed capacity by 2020 … equivalent to 13 times the current capacity of the Three Gorges Dam.
Annual output from this forest of turbines could replace 200 average coal-fired power stations, according to China Wind Power Outlook 2010, a new report jointly released by Greenpeace, the Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association (CREIA), and the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC).
China is storming ahead on the renewables front. In 2009, the world’s most populous nation led the world in newly-installed wind-based generation capacity … 13.8GW based on 10,129 turbines.
According to the report, this is the equivalent of installing one new turbine every hour.
In terms of overall wind capacity, China now ranks second with 25.8GW installed. This is eclipsed only by Europe, but not for much longer.
“China’s speed of wind power development is remarkable,” said Steve Sawyer, secretary general of GWEC. “In 2005, only one Chinese company was among the top 15 manufacturers in the world. Today, there are five.”
According to the report, the country’s equipment manufacturing capability has overtaken the rest of the world.
Both the newly-installed capacity in the country and China’s wind turbine output accounted for roughly a third of the global total.
The report projects that by 2020, China’s total wind power capacity will reach at least 150GW, possibly up to 230GW, which, if realised, could eliminate 410million tonnes of COemissions, or 150million tonnes of coal consumption.
The at first sight-staggering target is only achievable with the implementation of effective incentive policies and a thorough overhaul of the national grid, according to Yang Ailun, head of the Climate and Energy Team of Greenpeace.
However, the report says that, compared to multi-nationals, many Chinese companies are young and lack a strong basis for research and development.
There is a further issue; despite a renewable energy policy requiring grid companies to buy all electricity from windfarms, access to wind power for the Chinese grid is frequently lagging behind an unstable, outdated grid infrastructure.
There is also the problem of a lack of incentives and penalties for grid companies, and slow progress in more wind-energy technologies.
Greenpeace wants the Beijing government to implement a clear and definitive long-term plan for wind power, including an ambitious development target.
The green pressure group says economic incentive policies should involve, and coordinate, all stakeholders, including local governments, power companies, grid companies, and domestic and foreign manufacturers.
Critically, the Chinese national grid needs a massive overhaul, while stable pricing for wind power should be guaranteed in order to encourage wind energy developers.
“The advantages of wind have never been more apparent – reduced greenhouse gas emissions, reduced pollution, sustainable development, poverty alleviation in historically rural regions, and so-on,” said Yang.
“China is at a crossroads. It can choose between the dirty, dangerous world of coal and fossil fuels, or the new, clean future promised by wind. The answer is obvious.”
It is clear from the report that China intends to maximise local content by squeezing out foreign firms.
Before 2005, foreign companies dominated the wind power market in China, accounting for more than 70% of the sector. By 2009 this had decreased to about 13%. The market share of domestic manufacturers had therefore increased from 25% in 2004 to 87% in 2009.
Moreover, China’s leading turbine brands are advancing rapidly, both in terms of developing machines up to 5MW capacity and in getting to grips with offshore renewables.
The three domestic manufacturers – Sinovel, Goldwind and Dongfang – who have taken the lead in the manufacture of domestic wind turbines – can now produce 1.5MW machines in large quantities and dominate the market.
The rapid development of the complete Chinese turbine manufacturing industry since 2005 has encouraged the establishment of enterprises manufacturing gearboxes, blades, electric motors, hubs, main shafts, bearings and other parts. In particular, more than 10 companies produce gearboxes, blades, electric motors and bearings.
The report states that, in 2009, most of the 24 foreign turbine brands that had at some stage had been involved in the Chinese market decided to retreat, leaving less than 10 still active. However, at this point, there are still four foreign enterprises ranked in the top 10 suppliers to the Chinese wind power market.
No reference is made to China’s renewables export ambitions. However, Energy predicted some time ago that the wind equivalent of large vehicle carriers will be built in the Far East to Asian account with a view to exporting complete turbine packages globally … wherever there are receptive markets, such as that of the UK.