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Debate over Excess Capacity Blows up in Wind Power Sector

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A split has emerged in China's wind power industry over its future development and government policies intended to avoid "excess capacity."

Some of China's leading large-scale wind power businesses have been lobbying the government to slow the growth of the industry because of alleged over-capacity

They appeared to have won the debate in September when the State Council, China's Cabinet, approved a document from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and nine other ministries, stipulating the NDRC would hold back funding or approval for projects in industries with production overcapacity.

Wind energy was among the industries listed.

But the "over-capacity of production" charge is untrue, argued Qin Haiyan, secretary-general of China Wind Energy Association (CWEA).

"The production overcapacity, as widely reported in the media or calculated by some government agencies, is based on the development programs of many enterprises. It is open to question whether these capacities will be realized," said Qin.

"I strongly oppose the policy of restricting businesses from other manufacturing sectors from entering the wind power sector. And I strongly oppose leading enterprises lobbying the government to restrict the development of the industry on the excuse of excess capacity."

The country has more than 80 wind turbine producers, double the number in 2004, as well as about 50 wind turbine blade producers and nearly 100 tower producers.

"The output of the top three plants, turbines producing about 1 million kilowatts annually each, is only about a third of the capacity of western giants Vestas, GE and Gamesa," said Qin.

Wind suppliers

The debate comes in the run-up to the Wind Power Asia Exhibition and Conference (WPA) in June next year.

More than 50 foreign businesses have booked booths, accounting for about one half of the total reservations, said David Feng, managing director of Koelnmesse Co., Ltd., the organizer.

WPA 2010, to be held at China National Convention Center in Beijing, near the Bird's Nest, or the Olympic Stadium, is expected to attract more than 500 exhibitors, including the Danish Wind Energy Group, the Association of Technology Transfer of the Netherlands, the Energy Supply Chain from Spain, and the Korea International Trade Association, and about 18,000 industry visitors.

Asia's largest wind energy event, the WPA has been held six times since its debut in 2003. A total of 15,065 industry visitors from 43 countries thronged the aisles to see 445 exhibitors at WPA 2009 in July, an increase of 50 percent from WPA 2008.

Li Ye, director of the Energy Conservation, Science, Technology and Equipment Department of National Energy Administration (NEA), said in late October, "Among the 80 plants, about 30 never produced any wind turbines previously. Many others made a few sample wind turbines, but fewer than 10 each. Fewer than 10 plants ever produced more than 100 turbines. Only three suppliers -- China's top three wind turbine manufacturers Sinovel, Goldwind and Dongfang Electric -- produced more than 1,000 turbines each. It's ridiculous."


Before 2004, China's wind power industry was almost non-existent. Its total installed capacity of wind power has grown about 20-fold from 764,000 kilowatts in 2004 to 15.85 million kilowatts by September 2009.

By the end of 2008, China's total wind power installed capacity was the fourth largest in the world after the United States, Germany and Spain. The newly increased installed capacity was the second largest, after the United States.

However, China relies on coal to generate about 70 percent of electric power, which means prospect for the wind energy sector are good.

China is expected to have 120 million to 150 million kilowatts of installed wind power capacity, totaling 7 to 9 percent of the national total installed electricity capacity, in 2020, according to the China Energy and Environment Technology Association (CEETA).

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