In late April, three trucks carrying silvery wind turbine blades more than half a football pitch long were lumbering through the Ili River valley in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
Passing through the Sayram Lake basin and zigzaging in the Tianshan Mountains, they were heading to the China-Kazakhstan border port of Horgos.
The trucks departed from Tianjin and transported the last batch of three shipments of Chinese-made wind power equipment for a 50-megawatt wind farm being built in northwest Kazakhstan’s Kostanay Region.
The equipment, including the turbine generator, 70-meter-long blades and accessories, made by the Chinese firm Universal Energy Co., Ltd, was planned to be transferred at Horgoes onto Kazakh vehicles for a relay trip of 2,200 km before arriving at the Kostanay wind farm in mid-May.
Zhang Yin, vice president of Universal Energy, said cross-border transportation of such “monster” wind power equipment is never an easy task with months of meticulous planning involved.
“We conducted research and checked the roads five times, including the condition of highways, angle of turning, height of each tunnel … Finally we map out a best route spanning 7,000 km from China to Kazakhstan,” said Zhang.
Zhang noted that as special vehicles that can ship wind turbine blades are hard to find in Kazakhstan, the company had to book several such vehicles for them months ago.
In addition to the highway transportation, the China-Europe freight trains function as a lifeline of cross-border logistics amid the COVID-19 pandemic, said Zhang. Since late January, his company has transported six batches of equipment from China’s Hefei, Nanjing, Yiwu, Zhengzhou and Qingdao to Kazakhstan via the freight trains, loading one to five containers each time.
“A lot of freight trains to Central Asia and Europe pass Kazakhstan. A new express train which departs from Qingdao and goes by way of Kazakhstan’s Almaty was launched on April 27, our photovoltaic devices were delivered by the train,” said Zhang.
Universal Energy is the contractor of six wind and solar power projects in Kazakhstan, all of them being among the 55 China-Kazakhstan production capacity cooperation programs.
Two solar farms were successfully put into operation in 2019 and connected to the Kazakh electricity network. Another four projects have resumed the construction work despite a shortage of staff and equipment, according to Zhang.
Nan Yi, chairman of Universal Energy, told Xinhua that the company has adopted necessary anti-coronavirus measures at the construction sites, with all Chinese and Kazakh staff having temperature checks three times a day, and daily complete workplace disinfections.
To run things smoothly, the company purchased enough food and hygiene products in advance.
At the Kostanay wind farm located near the Russian-Kazakh border, preparations are in full wing for the arrival of the equipment. If all goes well, the turbines can be erected in early July and put into operation before the end of December.
After nearly two months of a state of emergency, Kazakhstan is easing some quarantine measures and partially reopens its economy. Zhang said that despite existing difficulties, he was confident about the prospect for the China-Kazakhstan cooperation in the green energy sector.
Zhang noted that Kazakhstan is boosting the implementation of renewable energy projects. By 2050, green energy is expected to contribute to half of its electricity consumption.
“After the pandemic, demand for infrastructure construction, especially new energy infrastructure will resume, and the prospect for international cooperation is very promising,” said Zhang.