WIND POWER IN CHINA
In 2018, China was the world’s largest wind generator at about 366 Terrawatt hours, 20 percent higher than the level in 2017. The government has encouraged investment in grid development and measures to improve flexibility in the transmission system, especially during peak hours. Several ultrahigh voltage (UHV) transmission lines that carry electricity over long distances began operations since 2014, and more are scheduled to come online by 2020. However, some of these UHV projects are reportedly delayed or underutilized. [Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration country analysis briefs, September 30, 2020]
China had 129 gigawatts of installed wind capacity in 2014 when wind energy accounted for 3.3 percent of power generation. Grid issues meant that electricity from some projects was wasted. According to Bloomberg: China idled 33.9 billion kilowatt-hours of wind power in 2015, up 69 percent from a year earlier. About 39 percent of all wind projects in the northwestern province of Gansu sat unused. Xinjiang and Jilin trailed at 32 percent each. [Source: Bloomberg News, August 24, 2016]
China has access to and is a major producer of the rare earth neodymium, a critical ingredient in wind turbine magnets. It also has a large supply of cheap labor and government with hefty coffers ready to lend a hand. According to Associated Press: Beijing has spent tens of billions of dollars on building wind farms to reduce reliance on imported oil and gas and clean up its smog-choked cities. China accounted for about half of global investment in wind in 2020. Still, coal is expected to supply 60 percent of its power in the near future. [Source: Joe McDonald, Associated Press, April 24, 2022]
Wind power was China's third-largest source of electricity at the end of 2020 — after coal and hydropower — accounting for 6.1 percent of total power generation, roughly double that of solar energy. China gets 18 percent of its electricity from renewable sources other than hydropower (percent of total installed capacity (2017 est.), 46th in the world, CIA World Factbook, 2022).
See Separate Articles: WIND POWER: TURBINES, TOWERS, BIRDS AND COSTS factsanddetails.com ; ENERGY IN CHINA: GROWTH, INEFFICIENCY AND CONSERVATION factsanddetails.com; RENEWABLE ENERGY AND GREEN TECHNOLOGY IN CHINA factsanddetails.com; DAMS IN CHINA: HYDROPOWER AND BIG PROJECTS AND DISASTERS factsanddetails.com; SOLAR ENERGY IN CHINA factsanddetails.com; U.S. Energy Information Administration Report on Energy in China eia.gov/international/analysis ; China Sustainable Energy Program efchina.org ; Suntech suntech-power.com ; Wikipedia article on Wind Power in China Wikipedia ; Solar and Alternative Energy Products made-in-china.com ; Articles on Renewable Energy in China martinot.info ; New York Times Article on China’s Leadership in Clean Energies nytimes.com
Issues with Wind Power in China
Adam Minter of Bloomberg wrote: In its impatient drive to become a leader in renewable energy and conservation, China often underinvests in the infrastructure needed to realize its ambitions. Much of the energy generated by China's wind-power turbines, for instance, never reaches consumers because the electric grid lacks the capacity to transmit it. In one province, fully 43 percent of generated wind power goes nowhere. [Source: Adam Minter, Bloomberg, March 2, 2017]
Wind power infrastructure is lagging behind turbine construction. Already there are transmission bottlenecks and many wind turbines stand idle waiting for new transmission lines and connections to main power grids. Areas with great wind power potential such as Gansu are often far away from industries and plus places where people live, plus they are often near places where coal is important to local economy. Transmission capacity of the grid hasn't kept up with the growth of China's wind farms. [Source: Wikipedia]
In 2014, the U.S. generated more electricity from wind than China even though it had a lower generating capacity because of China's poor connectivity and grid capacity issues. In 2013 The Economist reported that the U.S. produced 40 percent more energy from a similar capacity of wind power, because Chinese wind farms were not efficiently connected to the power grid. A potential solution to this problem would be to move wind farms closer to urban areas, but a large number of people are against, often citing unfounded radiation fears. [Source: Wikipedia]
Growth of Wind Power in China
China’s wind power generating capacity doubled annually in the late 2000s. In 2010 it surpassed the U.S. to become number one wind power generator. According to the Global Wind Energy Council China ranked first in wind power installations in 2010, creating 16,500,000 kilowatts of renewable energy compared to 221,000 kilowatts for No. 18 Japan. At that time wind still accounted for just 2 percent of China’s electricity capacity — and only 1 percent of actual output, because the wind does not blow all the time.
As of 2007 China ranked fifth in the world in the annual instillation of windmills behind the United States, Germany, India and Spain. Rapid growth helped China make a leap to second place in 2008. In 2007 China added 1,300 megawatts of wind power, the equivalent of two average-size nuclear power plants. Total wind power production in 2007 was 2.6 gigawatts, still less than 1 percent of total energy use.
Countries with the most existing wind-energy capacity (gigawatts in 2008): 1) the United States (25,170); 2) Germany (23,903); 3) Spain (16,754); 4) China (12,210); 4) India (9,645); 6) France (4,404); 7) Italy (3,736); 8) Britain (3,231); 9) Denmark (3,180); 10) Portugal (2,862); Rest of the World (16,686)
Countries with most wind-energy capacity per capita (megawatts in 2008): 1) Denmark (581.6); 2) Spain (414.2); 3) Germany (290.1); 4) Portugal (268); 5) United States (83.6); 6) Italy (64.3); 7) France (53.4); 8) Britain (53.3); 9) China (9.2); 10) India (8.5); Rest of World (4.7).
China spent $5.8 billion to more than triple its wind power capacity between 2007 and 2010 to 8,000 megawatts. . Greenpeace has estimated China’s wind power potential to be 1 million megawatts, more than twice China’s current total power-generating capacity of 440,700 megawatts. In November 2009, Chinese banks said they would invest $15 billion in a 14,569-hectare wind farm in Texas, which will produce enough energy for 180,000 American households.
A report in Science magazine contends that the Chinese could increase the country’s current output by a factor of 16 from wind-generated electricity. A single wind-generating complex in Gansu Province in northwestern China will, when completed, has 38,000 megawatts of generating capacity, enough to supply the total electricity needs of entire countries like Poland and Egypt.
In 2012, U.S. President Barack Obama blocked the privately-owned Chinese company Ralls Corp from building wind turbines close to a Navy military site in Oregon due to national security concerns. According to Reuters: “The rare presidential order to divest interests in the wind farms comes as Obama campaigns for a second term against Republican Mitt Romney, who has accused him of being soft on China. “Ralls Corp, which had been installing wind turbine generators made in China by Sany Group, has four wind farm projects that are within or in the vicinity of restricted air space at a naval weapons systems training facility, according to the Obama administration. "There is credible evidence that leads me to believe" that Ralls Corp, Sany Group and the two Sany Group executives who own Ralls "might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States," Obama said in issuing his decision.[Source: Rachelle Younglai, Reuters, September 28, 2012]
Top Chinese Wind Turbine Manufacturers
Top 10 Wind Turbine Manufacturers in the World 2022
Rank — Company — Headquarters — Total Capacity (Gigawatts)
1) Vestas — Aarhus, Denmark — 9.60
2) Siemens Gamesa — Biscay, Spain — 8.79 \
3) Goldwind — Beijing, China — 8.25
4) GE — Boston, U.S. — 7.37
5) Envision — Shanghai, China — 5.78
6) MingYang — Zhongshan, China — 4.50
7) Windey — Zhejiang, China — 2.06
8) Nordex — Hamburg, Germany — 1.96
9) Shanghai Electric — Shanghai, China — 1.71
10) CSIC — Chongqin, China — 1.46
3) Goldwind is China’s largest and the world’s third largest wind turbine supplier. Goldwind benefits China being the world’s largest wind energy market and number one wind turbine installer, By late 2019, Goldwind has installed a total capacity of over 50GW wind turbines in more than 20 major countries around the world. See Below[Source: BizVibe]
5) Envision Energy is based in Shanghai. In addition to being one of the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturers, it also provides energy management software, and energy technology services. The company has installed over 2400 wind turbines globally and its software is used in over 6,000 wind turbines in North America, Europe, Latin America, and China.
6) MingYang Wind Power Group is China’s largest private wind turbine company. The company is mainly involved in the wind energy and solar energy sectors, ranking the 37th among the World Top 500 New Energy Enterprises and the 1st in offshore wind innovation. In early 2022, MingYang Smart Energy has revealed plans to develop a 10 MW typhoon-resistant floating wind turbine, the project is valued at US$374 million.
7) Windey Co., Ltd is one of the oldest and largest wind turbine manufacturers in China. It is headquartered and has a R&D centre in Hangzhou, with other three production bases in China. Its products are mainly 1.5 MW, 2.XMW and 3.XMW wind turbines. As of 2022, Windey had more than 1,200 employees, including over 500 technical research & development personnel. At that time it had over 6,200 sets of wind turbines installed worldwide.
9) Shanghai Electric is a Chinese multinational power generation and electrical equipment manufacturing company headquartered in Shanghai. The Company produces and sells thermal generator set, nuclear power units, wind power equipment, power transmission and distribution equipment, and other products. In early 2022, Shanghai Electric installed an 8MW wind turbine at its Shantou Intelligent Manufacturing Base in Guangdong Province, the largest unit ever installed in China.
10) CSIC (China Shipbuilding Industry Corp) Group is a leading Chinese state-owned machinery manufacturing group. Its wind power division HZ Wind operates a complete supply chain in wind power sector including components manufacturing, wind turbine R&D and manufacturing, Offshore wind project construction and installation, offshore transmission line installation. HZ Wind has total capacity of over 9GW and 1000+ employees globally.
Vestas of Denmark erected the world’s biggest wind turbine manufacturing complex in northeastern China, and transferred the technology to build the latest electronic controls and generators. You have to move fast with the market, said Jens Tommerup, the president of Vestas China. Nobody has ever seen such fast development in a wind market.
Wind Farms in China, Including the World's Largest One
Wind farms have been set up in Guangdong, Fujian, Hebei, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia, where strong consistent winds blow across coastal areas, deserts and steppes. China is building one of the world’s largest offshore wind farms, with wind turbines with 80-meter-long blades that generate 1.2 megawatts of electricity, enough to power hundreds of homes, at Huangha in the northern coastal province of Hebei. The plant is expected to cost $1.1 billion and produce 1 million kilowatts and is expected to be completed in 2020. There are plans for a similar plant on the southern island of Nano to provide energy for Guangdong Province. The Japanese firm Kyushu Electric helped build a $100 million, 200,000-kilowatt wind farm in Inner Mongolia with the Chinese power company China Huandian.
The Gansu Wind Farm is the world’s largest wind farm. Also known as the Jiuquan Wind Power Base, its is located western Gansu on the edge of the Gobi Desert. Once completed, it will have a capacity of 20GW generated by 7,000 turbines and produce enough energy to power a small country. The first phase of the US$17.5 billion project was completed in 2010, with 3,500 turbines producing a capacity of 5,16GW. Construction of a 750 kV AC power line to carry electricity to the central and eastern parts of China started in 2008. [Source: 2022 NES Fircroft]
Wind power has come a long way in China. A big deal was made about the Zhuhai Wonder Wind Power farm, with 21 wind turbines, near Macao. But it turns all the power produced by those turbines in a month would only keep the nearby Venetian Hotel in Macao going for a couple of hours.
According to the South China Morning Post: “To reduce the country’s reliance on coal-fired power plants, the government set up large-scale wind farms. Most of the wind turbines are located in grasslands in Hebei and Inner Mongolia to the north of Beijing, and sit across a major stream of cold air from Siberia. [Source: South China Morning Post, 21 December, 2016]
“A recent study found that near-surface wind speeds in Beijing had declined significantly, from 3.7 meters per second in the 1970s to just 3 meters per second presently. Xu Dexiang, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences, said wind farms could indeed affect the movement of ground air, according to studies conducted both in China and abroad. But the impact to Beijing – which is more than 400 kilometers south of Inner Mongolia and 200 kilometers from Zhangjiakou in Hebei where most of the farms are located – would not be “obvious”, he was quoted as saying by Xinhua.
Preferences to Local Companies in the Wind and Solar Energy Markets
Preferences given to domestic companies through government procurement and policies have drawn complaints from major multinationals and the U.S., Japanese and European governments, AP reported. Washington filed a case in the World Trade Organization last year challenging subsidies China gives clean-energy makers that the complaint says allows them to sell solar and wind power equipment at unfairly low prices. [Source: AP, April 20, 2011]
In an example cited by the EU Chamber study, wind turbine manufacturers face rules requiring that 70 percent of wind farm equipment had to be made locally — a requirement some local governments interpreted so strictly that Chinese manufacturers from other provinces were sometimes excluded. Though Beijing scratched the requirement last year, some local governments seemingly continued to apply it, the study said.
The study doesn't name names. But Denmark's Vestas Wind Systems A/S, the world's biggest maker of wind turbines has had trouble elbowing aside Chinese competitors in China and increasingly faces them abroad. "It seems we are never 'domestic' enough," the study cited a wind power manufacturing executive as saying.
Before Hu Jintao visited the United States in 2010, China promised to not favor domestic companies in “innovation” contracts.
Wind Power Industry in China and Chinese Wind Power Companies
China became the world’s largest maker of wind turbines in 2009, and is currently expanding its lead at a rapid pace. In 2009, China had three turbine makers — Xiungiang Gold wind Science & Technology, Confand Electric and Sinovel Wind — in the top 10 in terms of sales by megawatts, according to the Danish think tank BTM Consult APS. Other major wind companies in China include Dongfang Electric. Because the market in China is huge,Sinovel and Dongfang are among the largest win firms in the world even though they have few foreign sales. Together Sinovel, Dongfang and Goldwind sold one in eight wind turbines sold world wide in 2008. According to BTM, Vestal was the leader with 19.8 percent and GE was second with 18.6 percent.
Vestas of Denmark has just erected the world’s biggest wind turbine manufacturing complex here in northeastern China, and transferred the technology to build the latest electronic controls and generators. You have to move fast with the market, said Jens Tommerup, the president of Vestas China. Nobody has ever seen such fast development in a wind market.
There are dozens of wind turbine makers in China. The quality of Chinese-made turbines is behind that of manufacturers in the United States and Europe but is quickly catching up. As it stands now the technology of Chinese wind companies lags behind rivals like Vestas and General Electric. But its prices are up to 50 percent lower. A spokesman for Vestas told AP: “China is a major player and will dominate the future development fo wind.”
The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), a powerful planning agency, has said that the wind-power industry is already suffering from over-capacity, raising doubts about the need for large-scale investment in alternative energy. Evan Osnos wrote in The New Yorker: Until recently, wind farms were required to use turbines with locally manufactured parts. The requirement went into effect in 2003; by the time it was lifted, six years later, Chinese turbines dominated the local market. In fact, the policy worked too well: China’s wind farms have grown so fast that, according to estimates, between twenty and thirty per cent aren’t actually generating electricity. A surplus of factories was only part of the problem: local bureaucrats, it turned out, were being rewarded not for how much electricity they generated but for how much equipment they installed — a blunder that is often cited by skeptics of China’s efforts. [Source: Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, December 21, 2009]
Wind farm outside Urumqi
Goldwind (Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Co., Ltd.) is one of the world’s largest makers of wind turbines. As of 2010, it was virtually unknown outside of China and almost all of its sales were domestic. Since then the company has gotten bigger in China and successfully expanded abroad. Goldwind was founded by Wu Gang, who was born in 1958 in Xinjiang, home to ferocious winds created by vast plains, big peaks and great extremes in temperature. There have been winds there strong enough to blow trains from their tracks. Engineers from Europe have been testing wind turbines there since the early 1990s.
Evan Osnos wrote in The New Yorker, “In 1987 Wu, then a young engineer in charge of an early Chinese wind farm, worked alongside engineers from Denmark, a center of wind-power research. He immersed himself in the mechanics of turbines. “Where are their stomachs, and where are their hearts?” he said. In 1997, state science officials offered him the project of building a six-hundred-kilowatt turbine, small by international standards but still unknown territory in China. Many recipients of government research funding simply used the money to conduct their experiments and move on, but some, like Wu, saw the cash as the kernel of a business. He figured that every dollar from the government could attract more than ten dollars in bank loans: “We can show them, “This is money we got from the science ministry.” [Source: Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, December 21, 2009]
Wu saw little reason to start from zero: Goldwind licensed a design from Jacobs Energie, a German company. Manufacturing was not as simple. Early attempts were a “terrible failure,” Wu said. “Whole blades dropped off.” He shook his head. “The main shafts broke. It was really very dangerous. Goldwind shut down for three months. The company eventually solved the problems, and, with the help of government funding, it expanded into a full range of large and sophisticated turbines. Many of them were licensed from abroad, but, as they were built in China, they sold for a third less than European and American rivals. Goldwind’s sales doubled every year from 2000 to 2008. In 2007, Wu took the company public, and garnered nearly two hundred million dollars.
Goldwind operates a plant and a laboratory in a cluster of high-tech companies in an outlying district of Beijing called Yizhuang. Osnos wrote: the turbine-assembly plant is — an immaculate four-story hangar filled with workers in orange jumpsuits piecing together turbine parts that were as big and spacey-looking as Airstream trailers. The turbines were astonishing pieces of equipment — large enough so that some manufacturers put helicopter pads on top — and the technical complexity dispelled any lingering image I had of Chinese factories as rows of unskilled workers stooped over cheap electronics. Wandering among the turbines, we passed some Ping-Pong tables, where a competition was under way, and stopped in front of a shiny white dome that looked like the nose of a passenger jet. It was a rotor hub — the point where blades intersect — and it was part of Goldwind’s newest treasure, a turbine large enough to generate 2.5 megawatts of electricity, its largest yet... Wu was set to unveil the new turbine at a press conference the next day. A flatbed truck, loaded with turbine parts and idling in the doorway, was bound for wind farms throughout Manchuria.
Image Sources: Wiki Commons, Mongabey; Environmental News; Suntech
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Last updated June 2022