Chilly and windy are typical weather conditions for early November in Beijing, but this year was different. Beijing citizens were able to enjoy some extraordinarily balmy weather outside, while welcoming a strong wind indoors at the Third Wind Power Asia conference and exhibition. Held just six weeks after the European Wind Energy Association formed its partnership with the Chinese Renewable Energy Industry Association to ensure wind power plays a key role in China's energy future, the event attracted hundreds of leading wind power and energy industry professionals to the Beijing International Convention Center.
With the ghost of the SARS epidemic -- which haunted the Wind Power Asia event last year -- firmly laid to rest, organisers were claiming attendance by around 1000 people from 50 countries, making the conference and exhibition almost five times bigger than in 2003. This year's event included a conference hosted by the World Wind Energy Association (WWEA), an alternative wind energy group financed out of Germany.
With Asia (and China in particular) seen as areas for huge growth potential, the conference saw more than 160 papers presented. These covered subjects such as policies for market frameworks, grid connection, and research and development, and attracted a high calibre of international speakers. Further presentations were given in three days of technical sessions. Meanwhile, more than 100 companies and research institutions from around the world showcased their products and services in four exhibition zones. "It is the largest wind conference outside Europe and the US," proclaimed Denmark's Preben Maegaard, a veteran wind power enthusiast who heads the small "world" wind association.
China is getting ready to phase in a new era of wind power development, Zhang Yuan of China Long Yuan Electric Power Group Corporation (CLYPG) told delegates. Better government policies, enhanced public awareness, growing company participation in project bidding, and forthcoming renewable energy legislation will contribute to growth, he said. "China's wind target for 2020 is 20,000 MW. This means an average growth of more than 1000 MW a year," Zhang noted. "The market is quite big." By the end of the year, CLYPG is expecting to own or operate 300 MW of wind capacity -- just under half of the projected 700 MW total expected for the whole country. Zhang expects this to rise to 1500 MW by 2010.
Representatives of Chinese institutions were out in force. As well as He Dexin and Shi Pengfei, the first and second in command of China's Wind Energy Association, other dignitaries included Huang Yicheng, an outspoken wind proponent and former energy minister for China, and Wu Guihui, deputy director-general of the Energy Bureau of the National Development and Reform Commission. But it was the presence of a strong international delegation that made the most impact, confirming Asia as a land of serious opportunity for the wind business. A series of political figures from around the world were in attendance.
Leading the pack was Germany's environment minister, Jurgen Trittin, who attracted much of the media attention as he strolled around the exhibition. Denmark's former environment minister, Svend Auken, also a staunch proponent of wind power, followed, along with India's minister of non-conventional energy sources, Vilas Muttenmar, and Pakistan's chairman of the government's alternative energy board, Shahid Hamid. From Australia, Theo Theophanous, energy minister of Australian's leading wind power state, Victoria, was present, accompanied by Peter Rae, chairman of Renewable Energy Generators Australia and second in command at WWEA.
The exhibition floor, too, was a melting pot of companies from around the globe including many of the leading wind turbine suppliers, with those from Germany making sure their presence was felt the most. Licence agreements between German and Chinese companies were announced, representing investment of up to EUR 600 million in China's wind power sector in the next ten years. Indeed, the event had such a strong German presence that a speaker on the first day felt it necessary to start his keynote speech by stating firmly that he was from Paris.
Among the German companies to make a significant impact were turbine manufacturers Repower, Fuhrländer, and Nordex and component supplier Winergy, the transmission unit subsidiary of Germany's Flender.
For Repower and Fuhrländer the show was particularly eventful. Repower has granted a production licence to Chinese steam turbine manufacturer Dongfang Steam Turbine Works for its 1.5 MW turbine, while Fuhrländer has signed a contract with Baoding Huiyang Aviation Propeller Factory to also jointly develop a 1.5 MW model for the local market. "When it comes to the supply of power, China is also focusing on wind energy," said Repower's Fritz Vahrenholt. "The award of the licence might well pave the way for a more extensive co-operation in the future," The Fuhrländer deal builds on an earlier 1 MW machine production agreement with Baoding Huiyang.
Not to be left out, Nordex, too, confirmed plans to launch a wholly-owned company in the city of Baoding -- about 150 kilometres to the southwest of Beijing -- for the manufacture of blades for its 1.3 MW turbine, while Winergy hopes to start producing gearboxes in Tianjin.
While the Germans dominated the deal-making headlines, it was Spain's Corporación Energía Hidroeléctrica de Navarra (EHN), yet to gain a foothold in the Chinese market, which made the biggest splash as an exhibitor. As the largest sponsor of the event, the wind project developer, which now also makes its own wind turbine model (Windpower Monthly, October 2004), secured the eye-catching space in front of the main exhibition zone. The company's Fermin Gembero Ustarroz spoke at the opening ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The Spanish wind giant is keen to capitalise on the Chinese market and confirmed it is negotiating a number of projects with Chinese partners. In addition, EHN is planning a manufacturing facility for its 1.5 MW turbine, which is likely to be launched next year, in East China's Nantong, where one of the country's first wind projects for franchised operation, the Rudong wind farm, is located. EHN hopes to achieve a production localisation rate of 90% for its turbine within three years.
Also from Spain, Gamesa was keen to consolidate its presence in the Chinese market. Its turbine subsidiary, Gamesa Eólica, has already built 137 MW across the provinces of Shanghai, Gansu and Ningxia -- giving it around an 18% share of the Chinese wind market so far. "In the next few months, more Gamesa Eólica turbines will also go up in the regions of Fujian and Hubei," the company said. "Gamesa Eólica will reinforce its commercial and services network in China. In a second phase, it will consider building a nacelle assembly facility and a blade facility in the country."
India's Suzlon showed similar determination in accessing the Chinese market, securing the second best space for its exhibits. Its plans for China are still preliminary, however. Having established a Beijing office about two years ago, Suzlon is still trying to understand the Chinese market while familiarising the Chinese with its name and promoting its technology, mainly its 1.25 MW machine. Suzlon hopes to start business in China, but points out that there is no guaranteed access to the grid for wind power -- and higher power purchase rates are needed than those currently being offered in government-sponsored franchise projects.
Alongside Suzlon on the exhibition floor, US giant GE Energy's product promotion focused on its 1.5 MW machine. The company hopes to build on deals it has to supply 47 turbines, with a combined capacity of 70.5 MW, for the Huitengxile, Shanghai and Shangyi wind farms.
Vestas of Denmark also put on an impressive display, even if the Danish presence was overshadowed by its German rivals. As well as Vestas, the other Danish companies exhibiting included blade maker LM Glasfiber, Svendborg Brakes and Mita Teknik, a supplier of control systems.
China's domestic companies also held their heads high. The country's leading domestic turbine supplier, Goldwind Science & Technology, was the most prominent Chinese company, not only sitting next to GE Energy and matching the US company in exhibition space, but also ensuring its brand name hit all eyes by sponsoring the conference bags. And just in case the name was missed by anyone, it had the main body of a 750 kW turbine, its latest product, standing outside the main entrance. The company focused on promoting this turbine, as well as its established 600 kW model. It is also due to bring a 1.2 MW direct drive turbine to the market.
Goldwind's company manager, Wu Gang, delivered a keynote speech in much rehearsed English. He briefed the audience on China's domestic wind turbine industry and spoke about the company's business strategies and achievements. Chinese companies have supplied about a third of the wind turbines operating in the company, with 70% of these coming from Goldwind. The company's original technology came from Germany's Repower, with which it still has a close relationship. Indeed, Wu Gang expressed special thanks to Repower in his speech.