Developing World Wind: Under Construction

Although Europe and North America remain the largest wind energy markets, the developing world is coming on strong, and many observers believe countries like India and China (with rapidly rising power demand and major pollution problems) have the biggest potential for rapid expansion.

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In 1990, wind energy, at 20 megawatts of installed capacity, barely existed in China. At the end of 2003, China had 600 megawatts of wind power (putting it tenth on the list of largest wind producers), but much more was in development. In Guangting province, 60 miles from Beijing, Wired reports that one of the world’s largest wind projects is underway and will generate 400 megawatts when it’s completed.

China is the world’s number one coal consumer, using it to generate 75 percent of its power. According to Yu Jie of Greenpeace China, pollution derived from that coal use is driving the new construction. "Acid rain blankets 70 percent of the country," he says. Air pollution, especially in China’s 16 of the world’s top 20 dirtiest cities, kills an estimated 400,000 Chinese a year.

China has nearly unlimited wind resources, and could eventually harness as much as 600,000 megawatts, according to Corin Millais of the European Wind Energy Association. It may take some time to get there, but projects are sprouting. GE Wind Energy is supplying 10 of its 1.5-megawatt turbines for the 15-megawatt Huitengxile Wind Power Plant in Inner Mongolia. "We look forward to future opportunities to support China’s goal to bring 20 gigawatts of new renewable energy capacity online by 2020," says Steve Zwolinski, president of GE’s wind division.

Also in Inner Mongolia, in eastern China, Danish producer Vestas (which has 50 percent of the Chinese market) has installed 28 turbines generating 36 megawatts. Jens Olsen, Vestas" representative in China, comments that Chinese wind projects are developed and owned by the national power sector, but some private investment is permitted. He laments the lack of special credits for wind power but adds that the Kyoto Protocol might generate renewed foreign financing. "There is an increasing interest in wind power," Olsen says.

Two other companies, Greenwind Power Corporation and Optimal Ventures, are collaborating with China Link Industries Group to build and operate a 50-megawatt wind farm on Daishan Island in Zhejiang Province. A large offshore wind farm, China’s first, is underway with German investment in southern Guangdong Province, according to the People’s Daily, with operation scheduled to commence in 2006.

India added 408 megawatts of wind power in 2003, and now has more than 2,000 megawatts of capacity (making it the world’s fifth largest producer). India also has its own wind turbine company, Suzlon, which has installed some units in the U.S. and is looking to expand. Indian officials say 444 megawatts of new wind energy are under development in 28 projects. One such new project is the $22 million, 25-megawatt plant planned by the Rajasthan State Power Corporation in the Jaisalmer district.

In other parts of the developing world, wind power is coming slowly to life. The first utility-scale wind project in Colombia is a 19-megawatt farm near the Caribbean coast on the peninsula of Guajira. Eastern Europe is also a fast-growing location for wind capacity, with new projects in Poland, Latvia, the Czech Republic, Estonia and Slovakia.