Denmark-based Vestas, the world's biggest maker of wind power equipment, unveiled its first tailor-made turbine for the booming Chinese market it wants to dominate.
The turbine, known as V60-850 kW, was made for wind, weather and grid conditions in Inner Mongolia -- the frozen region at the heart of the nation's wind energy explosion.
The move makes sense. To understand why, take a look at what's happening in China right now:
--- Chinese officials announced the nation will have a whopping 100,000 MW of wind-power capacity in place by 2020. That's quite a leap forward.
The country had 12,200 MW of installed wind-power capacity by end-2008, with nearly one-third of that build-up in Inner Mongolia. The whole world is estimated to have about 122,000 megawatts.
--- Last year, China's wind power growth was more than three times the pace of the rest of the world, according to the China Wind Energy Association (via the Financial Times).
--- This year (so far), China remains the only major wind market insulated from the global financial meltdown, "offsetting major drops in MW added in Europe and the US with a projected 59 percent increase in MW added in 2009," according to an April 13 analysis by energy consulting firm Emerging Energy Research.
--- Currently, China is investing $12.6 million every single hour to green their economy, according to a new analysis (pdf) by the Center for American Progress (CAP). And wind is a key component.
Needless to say, Vestas is eager to tap into the coming flood of wind power projects. Said CEO Ditlev Engel:
"China, as a future global wind energy superpower, is one the most important markets for us."
The "next-gen" V60 is the first market-specific turbine the company has ever built. It was made to excel in low and medium winds, which, according to Vestas, represent 75 percent of China's remaining onshore wind resource.
"The V60-850 kW’s agile design and versatile features open the door to untapped and hard-to-reach wind sites across the nation," said the company's press release (PDF).
Tapping more wind means a bigger slice of the market pie for Vestas, or so the company hopes. Easier said than done.
By the end of 2008, Vestas accounted for 9.6 percent of all new capacity installed in China last year. That made it the country's largest foreign supplier. But it still lags far behind China's home-grown manufacturers.
Combined, Sinovel, Goldwind and DEC -- the three largest Chinese turbine suppliers -- accounted for roughly 60 percent of the nation's new capacity in 2008. Expect that percentage to keep increasing. Interestingly, this wasn't always the case.
In mid-2005, Beijing mandated that all new wind power projects have at least a 70 percent Chinese component. The obvious result? The domestic Chinese market started to skyrocket, while Vestas and other foreign players lost market share.
Case in point: In the last few years, Vestas has delivered more than 1,000 turbines to China (a not insignificant amount), and it still keeps losing ground.
To compete with its Chinese rivals, Vestas will manufacture over 90 percent of its V60 parts in a factory in the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region (IMAR). The company says it "will be one of the first new facilities to drive the development of a strong IMAR wind energy industry." The facility will churn out 800 V60s a year.
Only time will tell if the new technology helps Vestas wrest away market share from China's own turbine makers -- or if it even matters.
The way things are going, there may be enough China wind growth to go around for all the players.