China Looks To Harness Wind Power

Yang Xuhua looks out at his wind turbines on the rolling plains of Zhangbei county and waxes optimistic over China's potential for clean energy. "The blades on the wind mill over there will be 77 meters (254 feet) long, the biggest in China," Yang, deputy general manager of the Zhangbei Guotou Wind Power Plant in Hebei province said.

"More and more people in China are becoming convinced that we must make use of our wind resources because it is cheap to exploit, clean, renewable, abundant and does not cause global warming," Yang said.

According to Chinese studies, the nation has the potential to tap over one million megawatts of wind power resources, of which 250,000 megawatts are land based and the rest could be tapped in offshore wind farms. Yet China only had 760 megawatts of installed wind power from 43 wind farms at the end of 2004, a fraction of one percent of total national electricity production. Heavily polluting coal continues to account for over 7% of the nation's energy.

The National Development and Reform Commission, the government's economic planning body, last year unveiled a plan to install 30,000 megawatts of wind power in China by 2020, a 33% increase over previously stated goals.

One of the main hurdles in developing the resource is Chinese regulations requiring a 70% local content in imported wind generators, although foreign investors are increasingly coming into the market. General Electric last week signed an agreement to invest $50 million in renewable energy research in China to supplement existing production facilities already making wind turbine components here. So far General Electric has contracts amounting to 700 megawatts of wind energy in China.

In June last year, Spain's ENH agreed to a $31 million joint venture plant to build wind turbines in the eastern city of Nantong. A month later the Vestas Group of Denmark set up a $30 million plant in Tianjin to manufacture wind turbine blades for its newest two megawatt turbines while a plan for a turbine factory is in the works.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006

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