China – Foreign firms eye wind energy sector

China’s wind turbines output in 2009 accounted for one-third of the world’s total with a newly wind farm installed capacity of 13.8 gigawatts, representing 100 percent growth year-on-year, according to the China Wind Power Outlook 2010.

Attracted by China’s commitment to the sector, overseas governments and companies are seeking opportunities to cooperate with Chinese wind energy equipment manufacturers and operators in order to further penetrate the fast-growing market.

Spain’s Gamesa, one of the world’s top wind turbines manufacturers, has set up joint ventures with State-owned power producers, including China Guangdong Nuclear Power Co and China Longyuan Power Group, to enter China’s wind farm sector and increase sales in the country.

General Electric (GE) set up a joint venture earlier this year with Harbin Power Equipment, giving it access to the largest potential market for wind energy.

"If you look at the development of the China market there is a need to be local, so partnering with Harbin gets us into a prime position," said Vic Abate, vice-president of renewable energy for GE Power &Water.

The Chinese government will encourage foreign investment and China’s overseas investment to flow into the energy-saving and environmentally friendly industries, said Jiang Yaoping, vice-minister of commerce.

For Finland’s Switch, a leading supplier of wind power components, China represents over 50 percent of its global market.

It is cooperating with China’s Dongfang Electric to jointly manufacture converters and generators that are used in wind power equipment and is planning to expand its production capacity in the country.

"We want to get involved in China’s wind power market and our competencies are complementary, for example, in deep sea offshore wind power projects," said Tormod C. Endersen, Norwegian consul-general in Guangzhou.

The Norwegian official said his country wants to cooperate with Chinese manufacturers in the development of offshore wind power projects.

With the development of offshore wind power projects, more efficient and more powerful units capable of producing 5 megawatts or more will become the main feature of the next generation, industry experts said.

China’s large wind turbine manufacturers, including Sinovel, Goldwind, XEMG, Shanghai Electric and Mingyang, are now moving into the large-scale wind power equipment sector.

China is capable of producing 5-megawatt wind turbines, and a 6-megawatt wind turbine which is currently under development is expected to hit the market in 2011, according to Sinovel.

"What has driven the development of China’s wind power industry, at the root, is government commitment and the reward mechanism," said Steve Sawyer, secretary-general of the Global Wind Energy Council. "That’s one experience other countries should learn from China."

China is expected to spend about 5 trillion yuan ($738 billion) in the next decade developing cleaner sources of energy to reduce emissions from oil and coal, according to the National Energy Administration.

Meanwhile, there is a role for international participants in China’s wind power market in quality control, Sawyer added.