France’s EDF will help build two offshore wind farms in China in a major breakthrough for a western developer in the fast-growing market there.

The French energy group has agreed to take an undisclosed stake in the Dongtai IV and V projects underway by China Energy Investment Corporation (CEIC), one of the country’s major power groups, which between them total 500MW.

EDF is already active in European offshore wind markets via its EDF Renewables unit, but the foray into China is its first in Asia and new ground for a foreign developer there.

After a sluggish decade, China’s offshore wind market is finally motoring and it overtook the UK to become the largest market by annual installations in 2018 when it added 1.8GW.

The sector has so far been dominated by deep-pocketed Chinese power groups and local equipment manufacturers. But there are signs that China is more open to foreign input on both counts, as it seeks to tap into the know-how behind Europe’s rapid offshore wind growth.

The same trend is visible onshore, where leading western OEMs are in line for a share of the world’s largest wind farm in Inner Mongolia.

Researchers at Wood Mackenzie said China could reach 31GW by 2030 as Asia overtakes Europe to become the largest global offshore wind market.

Subject to final agreement, CEIC and EDF will bring the Dongtai projects online in phases by 2021.

Jean-Bernard Lévy, EDF CEO, said: “The agreements signed today consolidate EDF’s foothold in China, a strategic country for the group’s international expansion. In China, EDF is now active in all main business segments, all of these helping the group to support China’s energy ambitions whilst reducing CO2 emissions: nuclear, renewables and energy services.”

The deal was signed during a visit to France by Chinese President Xi Jinping.