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Experts warn on China’s “reckless” wind power expansion

China plans to expand its offshore wind power installed capacity to 5 gigawatts by 2015 and 30 gigawats by 2020. The goal for the whole of Europe over the same period is 40 gigawatts, and 10 gigawatts for the U.S.

Hebei province recently approved an offshore wind power project, China’s third, which will have totalled installed capacity of 560 megawatts. The two existing projects are the
102-megawatt Donghai Bridge Wind Power project in Shanghai and the Rudong Offshore Intertidal Zone Wind Power project in Jiangsu.

All is not good, however. A project insider told the China Economic Times recently that “the whole Donghai Bridge Wind Power project is a ‘freak’: onshore turbines were directly moved to offshore wind farms and can’t function properly, the turbines automatically shut down and large amounts of investment are wasted”.

According to the China Economic Times, turbines with a capacity of 5 megawatts or above, suitable for offshore wind power, are still in the experimental phase and construction equipment can’t work under complex geographic conditions. The Shanghai government has also frankly admitted that cost for the project has been very high.

“Tech and skills are still in the experimental phase, which means that we are so reckless. I think 200 megawatts by 2015 is enough, whether we need to expand after 5 years is dependent on multiple factors, including cost, resource surveys, equipment corrosion and maintenance,” said Ni Weidou, director of the China Energy Research Institute.

China was also “reckless” in onshore wind power project development. From 2005 to 2010, China set the goal for wind power project capacity at 10 gigawatts, but local governments completed the goal in 2008, 2 years early. In 2010, China added 18.92 gigawatts of power-generating capacity, surpassing the U.S. to become the No. 1 wind power nation.

However, such reckless expansion can’t keep up with the pace of grid interconnection of wind farms, equipment quality can’t stand the test of time and wind farm administration is also falling behind.

“40-50 percent of wind power projects are left idle,” an analyst was cited as saying by the official China Securities Journal.