China connected more than 70GW of wind power capacity to the grid last year as developers worked frantically to claim onshore wind subsidies before they were phased out, according to government figures.
But these additions likely include more than 25GW of wind capacity that was installed in 2019 but only connected to the grid in 2020.
The Chinese Wind Energy Association (CWEA) believes 26.3GW had been installed in 2019 before being connected to the grid in 2020, and so was included in the National Energy Administration’s (NEA’s) 71.7GW figure.
The 45.4GW that was likely installed and connected in 2020 is still a record year for annual growth in China and is nearly equivalent to the global capacity installed in 2018, the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) noted.
This installation rush in China had largely been expected, due to the phase-out of the country’s onshore wind feed-in tariff scheme by the end of 2020.
Its offshore wind feed-in tariff is due to expire at the end of 2021, which will likely prompt strong growth this year, GWEC noted.
It is currently unclear how much of the 71.7GW connected to the grid last year was onshore wind and how much was offshore wind, but GWEC believes offshore wind additions were around 4GW in 2020.
CWEAs secretary general Qin Haiyan explained that last year’s record installations were made possible by the wind sector’s manufacturing and installation activities returning to “business as usual” as early as March 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Grid companies also took various measures to overcome bottlenecks and connect as many projects before the end of 2020, he added.
Ben Backwell, chief executive at GWEC added: “Wind companies and industry-watchers have been reacting to these figures with a combination of surprise and awe.
“Ten years ago, when annual global wind installations of wind totalled just 39GW in 2010, it would have been unfathomable to see this volume contributed by a single market.
“Yet, China’s wind installations figures are yet another testament to the resilience of the wind energy sector amid Covid-19, as well as the growth possibilities when scale and policy commitment are jointly applied.”
Last year’s 45.4GW of installed and grid-connected capacity was an annual record for China, but still fell short of industry ambitions.
More than 400 wind power companies last year signed the so-called Beijing Declaration targeting at least 50GW of annual wind installations in China between 2021 and 2025, followed by more than 60GW annually from 2026 onwards to meet the country’s target of reaching carbon neutrality target by 2060.