Wind moving again as China approves 3GW in Gansu

China has approved construction of another 3GW of wind power projects in north-western Gansu province, in a move that could be a critical turning point for the country’s slowing wind industry.

The new batch of projects is part of the Jiuquan mega-base, one of seven 10GW wind parks that Beijing set out to build in 2009.

The Jiuquan wind base was the first of the developments to get under way and already has 5.36GW in operation.

However, development of wind farms in the area ground to a halt last year after two major accidents resulted in several hundred turbines tripping off the grid simultaneously.

The outages triggered a country-wide clampdown on wind power expansion and introduction of new, tougher grid-connection standards for turbine makers.

Beijing then brought all wind farm approvals under central government control, where previously provincial authorities had been allowed to give the go-ahead to any project under 50MW.

Approval of the new batch of projects in Jiuquan – more than a year after the policy changes – may point to renewed government support for the industry now that higher standards and new controls are in place, say analysts.

“The government has been guiding the industry in the right direction in the last year. Although we won’t see the same doubling of growth each year, there will still be stable development of the wind industry in China,” says Celia Sun, analyst at MAKE Consulting.

She adds: “The new Jiuquan approvals indicate that the wind bases are still part of the government’s plan for the sector.”

The go-ahead for new wind farms in Jiuquan is expected to encourage other wind power bases to submit development plans, reports the China Securities Journal.

The government is also likely to be paying close attention to the sharp downturn in profits at major equipment makers like Sinovel and Goldwind, both of which have seen profits slump by more than 80% in the first half of this year. Sinovel recently warned that it may report a loss of more than 200m yuan for the third quarter.

The new Jiuquan projects will be built in Yumen city, Guazhou county and Subei county, according to an announcement on the website of Gansu province’s Development and Reform Commission.

The projects, approved by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China’s chief policymaking body, will be awarded to eight developers including Guodian, Datang, Huaneng, Huadian, China Guangdong Nuclear, CECIC and a provincial energy investment company.

They will invest a total of 24.2bn yuan ($3.9bn) in the projects.

The new wind farms will play an important role in “optimising the province’s energy structure, promoting energy conservation and stimulating the development of equipment manufacturing and other related industries”, says the Gansu government statement.

It does not provide details on available grid capacity for additional wind power generation in the province.

More than 10% of Gansu’s wind power is typically wasted because of curtailment by grid companies, according to a recent report by Greenpeace, the China Renewable Energy Industries Association (CREIA) and the Global Wind Energy Council.

However, Sun believes that grid connection capacity has increased significantly this year as a result of government pressure to rectify the problem.

In addition to the Gansu projects, Shandong province also announced this week that it plans to reach 8GW of wind power by 2015, up from only 3.35GW currently.