Kate Mackenzie China’s energy landscape: Room enough for everyone?

The always-informative China Environmental Law blog makes a few good points about China (again) beginning construction on a 20GW wind farm – apart from the fact that it’s commencement was already announced last month in English-language China Daily.

From Reuters:

The Jiuquan mega wind power base will be built in two phases. The first one, a 3.8 GW base comprising of 18 200-MW and two 100-MW wind farms, is developed by 20 developers and will be completed by 2010, Feng Jianshen, vice governor of Gansu, told reporters.

Chinese power firms Huaneng Power International and Datang International Power are among the developers, which also include six foreign firms, Feng said, without giving the names of the foreign investors.

Construction for the second phase, consisting of 40 200-MW wind farms will kick off in 2010 and be open to foreign investment, he said.

The installed wind power capacity of Jiuquan will jump to 5.16 GW by 2010, 12.71 GW by 2015 and 20 GW by 2020 from the current level of 660 MW, Feng said.

The farm is being built in remote Jiuqan, at the western end of the Gansu province. However, as CELB author Charles McElwee writes, Jiuqan is also building its coal-based capacity. From China5E.com:

Wang Jianxin, Director of Jiuquan Development and Reform Committee, showed that Gansu Provincial Government proposed the strategic thought on building Mega Watt wind farm base in Jiuquan and the goal of “building Hexi wind farm corridor and rebuilding another “Three Gorges Dam” on the western land” based on the good wind resource in Jiuquan.

The city is implementing the target of building coal-power bases step by step and plans to reach the installed capacity of 13.6 million KW by 2020, revealed Wang.

China is expected to lead world growth in energy demand for years to come, so it’s no surprise the country is rapidly installing all types of energy capacity. But McElwee has another point: who are the six foreign companies are referred to in the Reuters story?

Foreign manufacturers of renewables are becoming increasingly agitated at a perceived bias towards domestic suppliers in some of China’s recent wind installations. But coincidentally, Duke Energy, one of the biggest US power companies, today signed a memorandum of understanding with China Haneng Group:

Under the MOU, top executives from both Duke Energy and China Huaneng Group will launch a series of meetings to exchange information and explore potential long-term cooperative initiatives to reduce coal plant emissions and develop other renewable sources of electricity generation.

One key focal point will be emerging cleaner-coal technologies including carbon capture and sequestration and coal gasification.

The substance of the agreement seems a little fuzzy at the moment (Duke chief executive Jim Rogers acknowledges he is “not sure exactly how the relationship will develop”, according to BusinessWeek) but this quote from China Huaneng Group Vice President Huang Yongda suggests it will involve some technology sharing:

We look forward to a mutual sharing of information and technology between the two companies and to jointly promote the development of clean energy technology.

Which is interesting, because sharing of intellectual property with China is something that a lot of western companies have been desperate to avoid – even lobbying for a bill to protect intellectual property rights in any climate change legislation. But partnering with a big Chinese energy firm is presumably far too good an opportunity to pass up.