Wind OEMs are having to fight on many fronts

The prominence of Chinese machinery in our selection of the year's best new wind-energy hardware cannot be ignored. It is partly a result of the country's leading OEMs finally being prepared to share more details of their product developments.

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But it is mainly because they have taken the opportunities offered by a huge and relatively stable domestic market to design tailor-made new turbines and enhance existing designs.

The west’s turbine makers have operated under very different economic conditions over the past decade.

These include the hangover from the 2008 financial crisis, the stop-go nature of US tax-relief policies, abrupt energy-policy changes in countries once considered promising wind markets, and the continued choke-hold the fossil-fuel lobbies still exerts on the short-term thinking of policymakers.

Western wind-power OEMs have achieved a great deal in the face of this economic and political uncertainty.

Taking offshore wind from an expensive and niche sector into the mainstream of energy generation; developing a new class of super-sized, super-efficient 5MW-plus onshore turbines that are reducing and removing the need for subsidies; pioneering the development of hybrid projects, combining wind, solar and storage in increasingly cost-effective and grid-friendly packages.

It is not a bad track record, but who knows what might have been achieved in the past ten years if the industry had received the policy and regulatory support the climate crisis demands?

Low expectations

One of the less edifying moments of the UK’s recent general election was a televised party-leader debate on climate change.

The prime minister, Boris Johnson, declined to take part and his place on the platform was taken by a melting ice-sculpture.

Now re-elected with a comfortable majority, his Conservative Party faces a reckoning. Because there is nothing in its track record of nearly ten years in government to suggest it is capable or even interested in climate action.

The new administration is pressing ahead with emission-heavy airport expansion while neglecting the infrastructure required for electric road and rail.

Only a true optimist can believe its moratorium on shale-gas extraction announced during the election campaign, will stay in place.

The manifesto revealed no details of how it intends to achieve its target of zero carbon by 2050, and had nothing to say on freeing onshore-wind from the permitting restrictions imposed in 2015.

Welcome to the new decade.

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