China’s Galloping Wind Market

A corporation that makes wind-machine components estimates that more than three times as much wind power capacity was installed in China last year than in the United States and that China now constitutes the world’s largest wind energy market.

A turbine made by Sinovel, an American Superconductor customer, on a wind farm off the coast of Shanghai.
 
Sinovel A turbine manufactured by the Chinese company Sinovel on a wind farm off the coast of Shanghai.

The report, from the American Superconductor Corporation, which makes wind machine components and licenses other companies to produce such components, said that China might have the largest installed base of wind turbines, about 40,000 megawatts.

The United States ended the third quarter of last year with about 36,700 megawatts of installed capacity, and with a year-end slowdown, may have ended the year with less than 40,000 megawatts.

In 2010 China installed about 16,000 megawatts, versus 5,000 in the United States; in 2009 it installed 13,000 megawatts versus 10,000 in the United States, according to American Superconductor.

The wind picture is part of a trend; China is also adding coal-fired power plants and nuclear plants very rapidly to meet a sharply increasing demand for electricity. The United States, with a more mature economy, a recession and growing energy efficiency, is thought to have seen modest growth in electricity demand last year by comparison with 2009, but remains significantly below its peak electric demand because of the recession.

American Superconductor, which is based in Devens, Mass., also announced on Tuesday that it had licensed some of its proprietary designs to a sixth Chinese company, the Jingcheng New Energy Company. Jincheng has been producing wind turbines since 2006, it said, and can now produce 2,000 megawatts per year.

American Superconductor had components in 25 percent of Chinese wind turbines in 2009 and says the proportion was at least that high in 2010. Two of the Chinese customers to which it licenses designs are among the top 10 wind companies in the world, Sinovel and Dongfang.

For comparison’s sake, here is a midyear graph prepared in 2010 by the World Wind Energy Association:

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World Wind Energy Association In June, China seemed on pace to emerge as the wind power leader by the end of 2010.
 

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