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China breezes into European wind power

12/08/2011

China’s biggest wind turbine maker has taken a large step into the European market long dominated by local manufacturers, with a €1.5bn ($2.1bn) Irish wind farm deal.

China’s biggest wind turbine maker has taken a large step into the European market long dominated by local manufacturers, with a €1.5bn ($2.1bn) Irish wind farm deal.

In a move analysts said was the most significant to date by a Chinese wind company in Europe, Sinovel Wind Group has signed an agreement with Mainstream Renewable Power, an Irish wind park developer, that would see Chinese-built turbines installed in wind farms around Ireland over the next five years. The projects would have a combined capacity of 1,000MW, enough to power more than 500,000 homes. The capacity of all the wind turbines ever installed in Ireland is only just over 1,400MW.

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Sinovel announced a smaller deal with Greece’s PPC power utility in April for what could become a 200-300MW wind farm and an offshore wind park. However, the size of the Irish deal jolted the industry. “This signifies the entrance of Chinese technology into Europe,” said Eduardo Tabbush, analyst at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance consultancy. Birger Madsen, director of BTM/Navigant, the wind industry consultancy said: “It’s a significant deal, no doubt.”


Sinovel, which BTM said was now the second-biggest turbine supplier in the world by market share after Denmark’s Vestas, suggested other European deals could follow. “Our international strategy is central to our expansion plans,” said Lecheng Li, Sinovel’s senior vice-president. “Europe is an important part of that strategy.”

Four Chinese wind turbine makers are now listed among the world’s top 10, and their machines can be up to 30 per cent cheaper than those made by their western rivals.

European turbine makers such as Vestas, Spain’s Gamesa and Germany’s Enercon have long held sway in Europe and now account for 89 per cent of the region’s market, according to the European Wind Energy Association.

Mr Tabbush said it was significant Sinovel was doing deals in two of the eurozone’s most troubled economies. He did not expect to see such deals in core European markets “at least in the short term”.

Eddie O’Connor, Mainstream chief executive, said China was “central” to the strategy of the group, which recently did a deal in the US with China’s second-biggest turbine maker, Goldwind.

ft.com

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