Despite last year’s economic downturn, global wind power capacity kept growing—particularly in China, which has squeaked past Germany to become the world’s second-largest wind power market behind the U.S.
China more than doubled installed capacity in 2009 to 25.8 GW, says the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC). “The biggest difference in terms of expansion comes from local Chinese manufacturers,” says Dheeraj Choudhary, the global renewable-energy business-unit chief at Cleveland manufacturer Parker Hannifin, which has provided hydraulics and other parts for Chinese-made wind turbines for a decade. GWEC reports about 80 domestic wind-turbine makers.
Joanna Lewis, assistant professor at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., says that while all Chinese manufacturers are linked with foreign vendors, “they are not at the mercy of companies or countries.” The Chinese Renewable Energy Industry Association says supply is starting to meet global needs, especially for components. Only 17 Chinese-made wind turbines were exported in 2009—to the U.S., India and Thailand—but two domestic firms are now among the world’s top five manufacturers.
Some are pointing to a growing bubble. Already, China’s three largest domestic manufacturers have a combined production capacity of 8.2 GW out of the 13.8-GW annual domestic market. In response, the Chinese government has stopped providing new licenses to turbine makers, focusing investment on turbines of 2.5 MW or larger. China’s goal is 20% renewable energy use by 2020, largely from hydro and wind power.
Offshore wind development is still in its infancy in China, but the first projects, begun in 2009, are already coming online. Choudhary expects onshore growth to continue more slowly through 2020 but sees up to a 150% jump in offshore projects over the next few years. “Customers we work with are pushing us to build for the offshore marketplace,” he says.