China Special - Going Global: Manufacturers look overseas for trade

China's home market is big, but not big enough to keep its now vast army of domestic equipment suppliers in business for much longer.

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The global industry's established turbine manufacturers, now struggling to compete in the Chinese market, are facing a flood of new competitors on the world stage in the next few years.

China's glut of wind power equipment manufacturers, grown from just six in 2004 to around 80 today, should think big about exporting, says Shi Lishan, deputy director of the Department of New Energy Sources and Renewable Energy Sources under the National Energy Bureau. "Chinese wind power equipment producers should keep the whole world in view, participate in international competition and get ready to go global," he says.

Wu Gang, board chairman of Goldwind, one of China's leading manufacturers, agrees. "In three to five years, Chinese wind turbine producers will swarm to the world market, to occupy about 20 per cent of the world market share," he predicts. "In this process, they might merge some small wind turbine producers."

But, he says, they have to prepare for the world market. They must optimise their technologies and meet power grid access and turbine authentication standards of foreign countries. "Chinese enterprises need to spend three to five years to get to their feet on the world market," Wu says. "If Chinese wind turbine producers start to go global in 2010, they will strive until 2015 before they truly consolidate their positions on the world market."

Companies should consider setting up joint ventures, or investing in the construction of plants abroad, Wu says. Goldwind, which has been preparing to go global for a long time, has only exported six 750 kW turbines - to Energoimport of Cuba last December - so far, but it is working on plans for its first US project, which will see three of its turbines installed in Minnesota (Windpower Monthly, October 2009).

Technology training

About four years ago, China began to absorb talents from foreign firms such as Danish turbine manufacturer Vestas, GE in the US and Germany's Siemens. Each year, it sends about 100 staff members for technological exchange programmes with other countries.

Its most significant move on to the world stage came last year, with the acquisition of Germany's Vensys (Windpower Monthly, March 2008). "After we purchased Vensys, we encouraged it to produce in Germany," says Wu. "Previously, Vensys was a simple design business. This year, it will construct 1.5 MW and 2.5 MW turbines in Germany, with an annual capacity of about 100 sets." These turbines are set for Europe, he says.

Goldwind is not the only Chinese firm to have turned its attention overseas. XEMC Windpower has just bought Dutch offshore turbine developer Darwind, once part of the now bankrupt Econcern group (Windpower Monthly, October 2009). "XEMC aims to continue the Darwind operations in the Netherlands," says Long Xin, XEMC Windpower's vice president. The newly incorporated company, XEMC Darwind BV will develop two 5 MW direct drive wind turbine prototypes to be installed and certified next year.

Meanwhile, Sinovel, which is now the largest domestic manufacturer in China, has ambitions to become the world's leading wind turbine supplier within five years. The company has firm plans for manufacturing facilities overseas, and says it has plants in the UK and the US currently under construction.

Huayi Wind Energy Development Co Ltd, established in 2002, was the first Chinese firm to export turbines with independent intellectual properties. In December 2007, the company (also known as Hewind) delivered three 780 kW turbines to Ecoingenieros, an engineering consultant developing wind farms in Chile (Windpower Monthly, April 2008).

That month, Guangdong Mingyang Wind Power Technology Co Ltd signed a contract to supply 72, 1.5 MW machines to American developer GreenHunter Energy. Guangdong Mingyang owns the intellectual property rights to the units, which are variable-speed and constant-frequency, doubly-fed turbines. Delivery is now planned for 2011 (Windpower Monthly, June 2008).

In February 2008, Baoding Huide Wind Power Engineering Co Ltd delivered ten, 1.25 MW turbines, based on technology from German Flender, to the US. Later that year, Lianyungang Zhongfu Lianzhong Composites Group Co Ltd shipped 11 sets of 37.5 metre blades for 1.5 MW turbines to Argentina. And this August, Changzhou Xinyu delivered a 1.5 MW turbine to a wind farm in the US.

Zhejiang Windey Engineering Co Ltd and Shandong Changxing Group have also agreed export deals. Zhejiang Windey signed an intent-to-supply agreement with a Thailand agent in July, with the contract due to be signed this month. It will supply 25, 800 kW turbines, based on technology from German supplier Repower, and the turbines will feature blades made from bamboo.

Shandong Changxing Group will supply 150, 2 MW turbines for a wind project being developed by Energetica Spa in Italy and units will be delivered early next year.

Meanwhile, Shanghai Electric subsidiary, Sewind, has exported three 1.25 MW machines, two to the UK and three to Thailand, and is eyeing markets in eastern Europe, Southeast Asia and South Africa.

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