China, the world’s third largest wind power producer in 2009

The country’s installed wind power capacity would total 20 GW this year, said Shi Lishan, deputy with NewEnergy and Renewable Energy Bureau of the NEA. The capacity was 764 MW by the end of 2004 and increased to 12 GW in 2008. The estimated figure will lift China to the third place following the United States and Germany.

China has now a complete industrial chain in wind power industry, Shi said. The country was not capable of producing complete wind energy generator equipment in 2003. However, technology remained the bottleneck of Chinese wind power development, Shi said.

China’s top legislature adopted last Saturday an amendment to the renewable energy law to require electricity grid companies to buy all the power produced by renewable energy generators.

Two-thirds of China’s energy supply is fueled by coal, and the country has become one of the largest greenhouse gas emitters. The law, which took effect in January 2006, was aimed at "optimizing the country’s energy structure and safeguarding energy security."

Shi said while government’s policies had been the main driver for wind energy expansion, the market also played a major role in helping foster a strong manufacturing industry of wind turbines.

China’s push for more wind power has helped create huge market demand for wind turbines. As a result, manufacturers propped up and investment flocked into the sector.

According to Shi, China boasts more than 80 wind turbine manufacturers currently, with a combined production capacity of more than 10,000 MW. In 2004, China had only six manufacturers.

"In the last few years, the wind energy sector has never been short of money. As long as you have technologies or projects, investment will come to you very quickly," he told.

In 2008, the National Energy Administration selected six wind-rich locations as sites for wind mega-complexes of between 10,000 and 30,000 megawatts each. A seventh has since been added to the list. In August 2009 construction began on the first project, a 13,000-megawatt complex in the northwestern province of Gansu. When completed, these Wind Bases will total more than 110,000 megawatts of capacity, the generating equivalent of 110 coal-fired power plants.

The emergence of China as the new world wind market leader in 2009 follows an extraordinary 2008, the latest year for which complete data are available. World wind generating capacity grew 29 percent, adding a record 27,000 megawatts to reach 121,000 megawatts installed worldwide, enough to satisfy the residential electricity needs of nearly 200 million people.

China had fewer than 800 megawatts of wind power as of 2004, but it has grown an impressive fifteenfold since, reaching 12,200 megawatts at the end of 2008. But this is just the beginning of what is possible—a 2009 study in the journal Science reports that China’s onshore wind resources are enough to meet its current electricity needs seven times over.

By 2020, renewable energy should account for 15 percent of national primary energy consumption, supplying the equivalent of 600 million tonnes of coal.

Chinese wind companies’ technology lags behind global leaders such as Vestas and General Electric Co. But their prices are up to 50 per cent lower, which industry analysts say should make them competitive abroad.

Chinese demand is so huge that with almost no foreign sales, Goldwind and rivals Sinovel Wind Co. and Dongfang Electric Co. already rank among top global manufacturers.

Sinovel, Goldwind and Dongfang together made one of every eight wind turbines sold worldwide in 2008, according to BTM. Vestas led global sales with 19.8 per cent and GE was second with 18.6 per cent.

Beijing-based Sinovel made its first foreign sale last year, shipping 10 1.5-megawatt turbines to India, said a company spokeswoman, Liu Chang. Also in 2008, Goldwind sold six of its smaller 750-kilowatt units to Cuba. China’s Goldwind Science & Technology Ltd. is one of the world’s biggest makers of wind turbines.