The Yangtze River Delta has turned to wind power in its quest
for cleaner energy, with Shanghai spearheading the drive.
Last month, the eastern metropolis opened China's first
wind-power science museum next to a cluster of huge three-blade
wind turbines installed last year in the south of the city.
The two-storey museum, which shows how wind has been used over
the centuries to generate power, attracts an average of 100
visitors per day, mostly students and tourists, according to
employee Yan Meihong.
From the second floor, visitors can see eight of the 11 giant
white wind turbines, each with a capacity of 1.5 megawatts (MW) and
65 meters tall, in nearby Forest Park.
The turbines, along with three in Chongming District, can meet
the electricity needs of 20,000 people.
Shanghai, one-third of whose power is imported, aims to promote
this clean energy even more, partly encouraged by the country's new
Renewable Energy Law.
The law requires major power companies to ensure that at least 5
percent of their generators are fuelled by renewable sources by
According to the National Development and Reform Commission, the
country's top economic planner, wind power facilities with a total
capacity of 30,000 MW will be built by 2020.
Most industry experts, however, believe the potential is much
"We want to add 10 similar turbines in Nanhui District, and some
bigger ones in Chongming District as well," said Hu Chuanyu, a
senior engineer of Shanghai Wind Power Co.
"But the global wind power market is so hot that we are worried
about where to find turbines."
Having worked in the wind power sector for 10 years, Hu
estimates that Shanghai alone has a potential onshore wind power
capacity of at least 3,000 MW.
That amount would meet the daily energy needs of about 1.2
billion average Chinese homes.
Although that is only about 10 percent of the city's total
demand, it is still significant for the city of Shanghai, which has
a population of more than 10 million and a power shortage of 10
million kilowatts. The shortage equates to the power supplies of
2.5 million ordinary households.
At the estuary of the Yangtze River, Shanghai benefits from both
ocean salt and silt carried by it, creating large patches of tidal
land that are extending 100 meters a year on average.
"That makes it an ideal wind farm location, as tidal land is
accommodating enough to hold big windmills," said Hu.
A spacious flat place is also important for ensuring steady wind
speed, which is crucial for later power networking and facility
The coastal city also has a large untapped sea area that is
suitable for offshore wind turbine construction, a likely future
trend for wind farms as they take up no valuable land
"Shanghai is planning a large offshore wind farm in the East
China Sea, which could be the first one in the country," said
The proposed wind farm may even be located by the East China Sea
Bridge to fuel a new residential area to be constructed nearby.
But it is not an easy task to erect turbines at sea in terms of
cost, construction and technology.
"A single blade for a turbine can be as high as a 10-storey
building. So imagine how much effort will be needed to erect scores
of turbines on the water," Hu said.
It would make the cost far higher than building turbines on
land, which already requires funding of about 20 percent more than
that of a thermal power station.
And for a country such as China, which relies heavily on
imported turbines, it also means more sophisticated technology.
China began to follow the rest of the world in manufacturing
turbines in the 1970s, but still lags far behind, said Yuan
Guoqing, associate professor of Shanghai-based Tongji University's
School of Aerospace Engineering and Applied Mechanics.
The difficulty, he said, lies in the design of turbine blades
the most vital part of a turbine.
"They look simple, but involve multi-disciplines including
aerodynamics, materials and automation. Their costs account for
approximately one-third of the total of a turbine," Yuan said.
The most high-tech windmills, each with installed capacities of
more than 1.5 MW, are all equipped with variable speed turbines,
where blades can change angles and running speed against different
winds to produce more stable electric currents.
But China is still behind many other countries in the
technology, according to Yuan. He added that some domestic
universities were planning to set up wind power majors to train
future turbine designers.
"We at Tongji University are also considering establishing a wind
power research center someday," he said.
One inspiring development, however, is that an energy research
institute in Guangzhou is experimenting with a new turbine that
adopts maglev (magnetic levitation) technology, according to
It is said to be able to utilize winds at speeds of just 2.5
meters per second, in comparison with the driving wind speed of
more than 3.5 meters per second needed for existing turbines.
China started wind farm construction in 1986, with the first
site in full operation in Rongcheng, a county in East China's
The Yangtze Delta, which boasts a long coastal line with the
potential to greatly benefit from wind power, trails somewhat
behind other areas, but has good future prospects.
Zhejiang provinces have also drawn up plans to develop the
In Dongtai, Jiangsu Province, a wind farm with a total installed
capacity of 200 MW is under construction. It is expected to be
completed in 2008, generating annual electricity of 400 million
Also in the province, the largest wind farm in Asia is being
built in Rudong, a city with an average onshore wind speed of 7
meters per second.
With a planned installed capacity of 850 MW, the wind farm will
accommodate about 430 turbines, each with a capacity of 2 MW,
according to Zhao Shengxiao, an engineer with the Central China
Investigation and Design Institute, which carried out surveys in
the area ahead of construction.
The province hopes to possess one-fifth of the total installed
capacity of wind power in the country by 2010 by erecting more
Hu said: "Jiangsu has geographical advantages, with large
plains, for instance. Its potential capacity of wind power along
the coast could be as much as 100 million kilowatts."
Zhejiang, although hindered by its mountainous and compact
geography, is also planning to make the most of its wind resources.
One of its island cities, Zhoushan, has proposed an offshore wind
farm with an installed capacity of 200 MW.
Statistics have shown that China has a total potential wind
power capacity of 1 billion kilowatts, with about 70 percent along
(China Daily May 11, 2006)