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China ramps up wind turbine capacity

CHINA: Chinese wind turbine manufacturers are rapidly boosting the rated output of their machines. Developers eager to install big turbines at offshore projects or remote onshore locations, where turbines with lower output take longer to cover high installation costs, are watching.

Getting bigger: Sinovel's SL 3MW series turbine
Getting bigger: Sinovel's SL 3MW series turbine

Back in 2005, wind turbines with rated capacity of at least 1MW represented only 22% of China's newly installed wind power capacity. That soared to 51% by 2007 and 73% in 2008. The portion has risen again: last year, megawatt-class turbines comprised 87% of all new capacity. According to Qin Haiyan, secretary general of the China Wind Energy Association, the average rated capacity for newly installed wind turbines reached 1.4MW in 2009.

Driving force

Goldwind, China's largest wind turbine supplier after Sinovel, has been a driving force. It began installation of its first 1.5MW offshore wind turbine in north China's Bohai Sea in 2007.

The company produced 2.5MW and 3MW sample turbines in 2009. In November, a 2.5MW prototype was installed at the Beijing Guanting wind farm and the following month saw the erection of a 3MW prototype at the Dabancheng wind farm in Xinjiang. The two models are designed for both onshore and offshore use. The company is developing a 5MW model but has not divulged a development timeline.

Producing prototypes

According to Qin, Sinovel now expects to produce a 5MW prototype before the end of the year. Rival Chinese suppliers Dongfang Electric, Chongqing Haizhuang and XEMC have also begun development of 5MW units. In the 3MW range, Shanghai Electric is developing 3.6MW offshore wind turbines and hopes to reveal a prototype next month. China South Locomotive & Rolling Stock plans to produce a 3MW prototype later this year. Guodian United Power also plans to unveil a 3MW prototype this year.

One company with an innovative approach is Guangdong Mingyang, which plans to introduce a 3MW two-blade prototype turbine in 2010. The firm has said that its turbine, jointly developed with German engineering company Aerodyn, will be the world's first super-compact-drive (SCD) turbine for both offshore and onshore use.

Although twice the capacity of Mingyang 1.5MW turbines, the company has said that its SCD turbines will weigh just over half as much (Windpower Monthly, June 2009). Several other Chinese companies plan 3MW models.

In 2009, Sinovel, Goldwind and Dongfang Electric remained China's top three wind turbine suppliers, meeting 60% of China's newly installed capacity. Sinovel installed 3.5GW in China, Goldwind installed 2.7GW and Dongfang Electric installed 2.0GW. Other Chinese suppliers lagged far behind.

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