While Americans debated the aesthetic ramifications of their first planned offshore wind farm for the last nine years, it seems the Chinese had already jumped ahead in the industry. A recent Climate Wire article highlights China’s first endeavor into offshore wind, the 102-megawatt Donghai Bridge Wind Farm, and its future plans for the sector. What becomes clear throughout the piece is that China has moved from simply a manufacturing giant to a technological innovator:
“‘What the U.S. doesn’t realize,’ said Peggy Liu, founder and chairwoman of the Joint U.S.-China Collaboration on Clean Energy, is that China ‘is going from manufacturing hub to the clean-tech laboratory of the world.’”
The Donghai wind farm is notable not simply in that it beat America to the punch, but that the majority of parts and design came from China. On top of decreasing reliance on foreign firms is the innovative nature of the foundations used on the project, a departure from Europe’s typical deepwater installations.
The success of Chinese offshore wind farms could have long term ramifications for the American economy. China is on track to meet its has ambitious plans to produce 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2020, with 514MW expected to be installed along the coastline in the next three to four years, according to an Azure-WWF report. These ambitious production goals will create a robust market which will drive demand and thus Chinese RD&D and large scale production. The Donghai project may simply be the nation’s first move towards dominance of the wind turbine market:
“Anthony Fullelove, project manager for North Brown Hill Wind Farm, based in Sydney, Australia, expects that his country, as well as Europe and the United States, will see a sharp increase in turbines sourced from China — as the technology rises to meet global standards and prices drop — to make wind farms viable especially in a generation sector without a carbon price.”
China will seek to prove through its ambitious goals that creating markets can drive not just manufacturing by hi-tech RD&D. The United States government must take similar steps to grow demand for turbines to ensure that they don’t miss out on what promises to be a high growth industry.