China blazes trail for region

CHINA: While China's exponential growth of wind power means that it will continue to dominate the industry in the region, other nations are showing signs of growth over the next two years

Australia's wind power pipeline boasts two mega projects due online by 2012
Australia's wind power pipeline boasts two mega projects due online by 2012

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The Chinese wind power industry looks set to continue its rapid progress of the past four years, although it seems unlikely to maintain the 100% annual growth rate of that period, considering the huge amount of capacity already installed.

The boom of the Chinese wind power industry dates back to early 2006, when China implemented the Renewable Energy Law, a policy stimulus. By 2009, its cumulative installed capacity of 25.8GW ranked second in the world, after the US.

China continues to encourage wind; the industry will account for 500,000 jobs in 2020, if installed capacity reaches 200GW, in addition to cutting 440 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, in line with the government's pledge that non-fossil energy supply 15% of the country's total energy demand by 2020.

Wind farms are developing in a pattern, clustered in Inner Mongolia and other northern regions. This is attributable to rich wind resources in these areas. North China has a 200-kilometre zone stretching from Xinjiang, through Inner Mongolia, to Heilongjiang, a zone of good winds with speeds ranging between 6 and 9 metres per second.

Consequently, Inner Mongolia accounts for the lion's share of China's onshore projects, with a string of 200MW-plus schemes due online in 2011 and 2012, as well as six of the seven 10GW-level wind power bases announced by the government in 2008. By 2020, the seven will have a total installed capacity of 138GW.

China's central government-owned electricity supply companies account for 80% of the overall installed capacity. Their enthusiasm for wind power is driven partly by the requirement that they produce 8% of their generating capacity from non-hydropower renewable energy sources by 2020.

The Renewable Energy Law, amended in 2009, requires the national public finance authorities to set up a development fund to support wind power development. The government has also introduced many regulations and preferential tax policies to support the industry, including a benchmark price mechanism integrating wind power to the grid. By setting a price level, the policy provides a clear expectation of return for investors. Local authorities have also introduced development plans and 2020 targets.

As a result, China's cumulative installed capacity is expected to have surpassed 40GW in 2010, and the country is expected to maintain an annual increase of 15-20GW over the next decade.

Outside China

Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region, Australasia is showing signs of growth over the next two years. Leading the way is a huge onshore scheme that dominates Australia's development pipeline. Silverton, in the far west of New South Wales, is a 1GW scheme from developer EPURON that received the go-ahead in 2008 and comes on stream this year. Another large scheme is Coopers Gap in south-eastern Queensland, from AGL Energy and Windlab Systems, due to start generating 500MW from 252 turbines in 2011.

New Zealand has three onshore projects in its 2011 pipeline, the biggest of which is Kaiwera Downs, Southland, serving the city of Gore near the southerly tip of South Island. This Mighty River Power scheme should generate 360MW.

On the subcontinent, India's biggest scheme of four is RS India's Kerala project in the south-west, which will bring 300MW of generation online in 2012.

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