Shanghai Electric, Envision, Goldwind, Mingyang, United Power and XEMC. According to data from the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), these are the six Chinese companies that dispute the global leadership of offshore wind power with the Spanish German Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE) and the Japanese-Danish MHI Vestas, which unreservedly lead the global market.
China installed more offshore wind power in 2018 than any other nation in the world. It was Global Top 1 for the first time in history (until then it had dominated that ranking in Europe, with the UK and Germany leading the way). Last year, however, the Asian giant installed 735 offshore machines (3,693 megawatts of power, 11 different manufacturers). During the same period – the twelve months of 2018 – Europe connected about fifteen marine parks: 409 machines, 2,600 megawatts (MW), most of them in British (969 megawatts) and German (1,300 megawatts) waters. According to WindEurope, which is the association of the European wind industry, the average size of the turbines installed last year off the coast of the Old Continent (6.8 MW of power) was 15% larger than the average size of those installed in 2017. In 2018, the waters of the United Kingdom saw the most powerful wind turbines ever installed on the planet: MHI Vestas machines with 8.8 MW of power.
The offshore race, unleashed
Not so long ago, however, as close as 2017, the average size of offshore wind turbines was below five megawatts of power (5 MW). During the previous six years (2010-2016), i.e. since the beginning of this decade, there had been no significant differences between European and Chinese machines. 2017, however, marks the turning point. That year, the average power of turbines installed in Europe’s seas exceeded five megawatts. Since then, the trend (increase in machine power) has not stopped in the Old Continent, driven by the continuous drop in costs of the offshore wind industry. Thus, in 2018, the average size of marine turbines installed off the coast of Europe has exceeded seven megawatts (7 MW). Moreover, the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) forecasts that this size will reach eight megawatts in 2020 (average of eight megawatts) and an average of around 10 MW in 2023.
On the other side of the hemisphere, the numbers are thinner
Last year (2018), the average size of offshore wind turbines installed off the coast of China was less than four megabytes. However, the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) announces that the growth of the European offshore wind turbine fleet will now reach China with equal clarity and for the same reasons: falling production costs. According to GWEC, over the last twelve months up to six Chinese manufacturers of marine turbines have presented large models (only one would be below six megabytes). Moreover, the Global Wind Energy Council states in a statement that a ten-megawatt PMG generator has left the production line at Dongfang Electric in August 2019 and that the assembly of the turbine has been completed shortly thereafter at its facilities in Fujian province. It would thus be the second largest direct drive marine wind turbine prototype in the world (MHI Vestas’ ten-megabyte prototype has a multiplier).
Although the traditional wind turbine (with gearbox) for high speed continues to dominate China’s offshore wind market (70% market share by 2018), most Chinese companies have decided to follow in Europe’s footsteps with direct drive and medium speed transmission trains. Shanghai Electric, China’s number one supplier of offshore wind technology, has replaced its best-selling four-megawatt multiplier machine (the most sold in the Chinese market) with a direct transmission machine (6-8 MW) licensed from Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy. Of the six OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) of Chinese turbines that have introduced new models throughout 2019, Envision is the only one that continues to seek multiplier solutions for high wind speeds, while other companies, such as CSIC Haizhuang and Dongfang Electric, are already working on direct drive and medium speed solutions respectively.
The Market Intelligence division of the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) has taken into account (1) the nominal capacity of the turbines that have been selected for the wind farms currently under construction in China, and (2) the dates announced for marketing the new wind turbines.
GWEC estimates that the average size of China’s offshore wind turbines could surpass the five megawatt milestone next year (2020) and the seven megawatt milestone by 2025, “making China a true leader in offshore wind development” (making the country – literally the GWEC communiqué – a true leader in offshore wind development).
The Global Wind Energy Council is an entity that represents the interests of the wind sector. It declares a membership of “1,500 companies, organisations and institutions from over eighty countries, including manufacturers, developers, component suppliers, research institutes, national wind associations, associations of renewable energy companies, electricity distributors, financiers and insurance companies”.