At least 15 Chinese companies were commercially producing wind turbines and several dozen more were producing components. Turbine sizes of 1.5 MW to 3 MW became common.
Leading wind power companies in China were Goldwind, Dongfang Electric, and Sinovel along with most major foreign wind turbine manufacturers.
China also increased production of small-scale wind turbines to about 80,000 wind turbines in 2008. Through all these developments, the Chinese wind industry appeared unaffected by the global financial crisis, according to industry observers.
The largest domestic wind turbine manufacturer in China is Goldwind from Xinjiang province. Established in 1998, Goldwind aggressively developed new technology and expanded its market share, though this then decreased from 35% in 2006 to 19% in 2012. The next-largest are Guodian United Power Technology Company (a subsidiary of China Guodian Corporation) with 13% of 2012 installations, and Sinovel with 10%.
The China Longyuan Electric Power Group Corp., another subsidiary of China Guodian Corporation, was an early pioneer in wind farm operation; at one point it operated 40% of the wind farms in China.
Chinese developers unveiled the world’s first permanent Maglev wind turbine at the Wind Power Asia Exhibition 2006 held June 28 in Beijing. The Zhongke Hengyuan Energy Technology company invested CN¥400 million in building the base for the maglev wind turbine generators, in which construction began in November 2007. Zhongke Hengyuan expects a yearly revenue of CN¥1.6 billion from the generators.
China has exceptional wind power resources: it is estimated China has about 2,380 gigawatts (GW) of exploitable capacity on land and 200 GW on the sea.
At the end of 2012, there were 76GW of electricity generating capacity installed in China, more than the total nameplate capacity of China’s nuclear power stations, and over the year 115,000 gigawatt-hours of wind electricity had been provided to the grid. In 2011, China’s plan was “to have 100 gigawatts (GW) of on-grid wind power generating capacity by the end of 2015 and to generate 190 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of wind power annually”.
China has identified wind power as a key growth component of the country’s economy; researchers from Harvard and Tsinghua University have found that China could meet all of their electricity demands from wind power through 2030. However, in practice, the use of wind energy in China has not always kept up with the remarkable construction of wind power capacity in the country.
In 2010, China became the largest wind energy provider worldwide, with the installed wind power capacity reaching 41.8 GW at the end of 2010, but about a quarter of this was not connected to the grid; by the end of 2012, 76GW were installed of which 15GW were not connected to the grid.
According to the Global Wind Energy Council, the development of wind energy in China, in terms of scale and rhythm, is absolutely unparalleled in the world. The National People’s Congress permanent committee passed a law that requires the Chinese energy companies to purchase all the electricity produced by the renewable energy sector.
As part of the environmental goals included in China’s 12th Five Year Plan (2011–2015) targets have been set for non-fossil energy to account for 11.4% of the total energy consumption, and for CO
2 discharge per unit of GDP to reduce by 17%.
According to reports from the 2007 China (Shanghai) International Wind Energy Exhibition held on April 10, 2007 at the Shanghai New International Exhibition Center, by 2010, 5% of Shanghai’s energy needs will be generated from wind power. Shanghai’s first domestically produced wind farm will locate in Lingang New Town; the 7 MW wind farm will begin generating power in early 2008 and the power generated from this wind farm will be connected to the Huadong Eastern China Power Grid. Over the past several years new wind farms have been built in Shanghai, including the Nanhui Wind Farm, the Qinjian Bay Wind Farm and the Chongming Dongtan (Eastern Beaches) Wind Farm. Together these three wind farms have 18 wind turbines with a total of 24.4 MW.
In 2006 the Shanghai Power Company purchased 64.485 million kWh of green energy (primarily from wind farms), yet the amount of renewable energy which was subscribed by customers from Shanghai Power Company was only 23% of that total. In 2006 there were just 6,482 households in Shanghai that subscribed to renewable energy in part because the cost of wind power is 0.53 Yuan/kWh higher than power produced from coal plants; in 2007 total output of wind farms in Shanghai will total 100 million kWh, which is sufficient to power 120,000 households. Though there were 22 entities that purchased renewable energy in Shanghai, though with the exception of 1/3 of that total being state owned enterprises, the remainder was foreign invested enterprises. Shanghai’s city government did not purchase any renewable energy. Of the top ten power customers in Shanghai, only Bao Steel purchased renewable energy; in 2006 Bao Steel entered into an agreement to purchase 1.2 million kWh over three years.
The China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), aiming to diversify from its core oil and gas business, will be seeking international companies interested in cooperating with them to develop offshore wind farms, said CNNOOC president Fu Chengyu at a conference in Hainan Province on April 22, 2007.
The nearest wind farm to China’s capital is Guanting, about 90 minutes drive from the city centre near the Badaling section of the Great Wall. Although it is small — 47 wind turbines, it is set to grow to 100 wind turbines by next year.
As of May 2012, China has two operational offshore wind farms. Construction of Donghai Bridge Wind Farm, the first offshore wind farm in China started in April 2009, close to Donghai Bridge, and commissioned in 2010 to provide electricity to the 2010 Shanghai Expo. The wind farm consists of 34 Sinovel 3 MW wind turbines at a cost of US$ 102 million. The next is the 150 MW Longyuan Rudong Intertidal Wind Farm costing 500 million ¥, operational in 2012.
Unfortunately, the development of offshore wind energy does not come as fast as expected. By the end of 2012, China had only installed 389.6MW offshore wind capacity, still far from the target goal of 5GW by the end of 2015. China’s ambitious targets of 5GW of installed offshore wind capacity by 2015 and 30GW by 2020 would eclipse capacity in other countries. In May 2014 current capacity of offshore wind power in China was 565 MW.
Transmission capacity of the grid hasn’t kept up with the growth of China’s wind farms. According to 2009 data from the China Power Union, only 72% (8.94 GW) of China’s total wind power capacity was connected to the grid; by the end of 2012 this had increased, but only to 80.2%.
In addition, China’s increasing electrical power consumption means increasing coal use as well, to provide power when the wind isn’t available. “China will need to add a substantial amount of coal-fired power capacity by 2020 in line with its expanding economy, and the idea is to bring some of the capacity earlier than necessary in order to facilitate the wind-power transmission,” according to Shi Pengfei, vice president of the Chinese Wind Power Association. Shi is also concerned about the high cost of wind power, which makes the industry dependent on the government’s willingness to subsidize renewable power. “It isn’t that wind power is showing signs of over-heating. It has already overheated.”