Whichever way you look at it, China is a wind giant.
Last year, it installed onshore capacity of 16.1GW, which is the same as Europe, North America and South America combined. And it has also set feed-in tariffs to kickstart growth on the offshore sector, which has major growth potential.
And this makes the recent announcement from China Ming Yang Wind Power – the country’s fourth-largest manufacturer – all the more curious.
Later this year the firm will enter a detailed agreement to install a prototype of its 6.0MW Super Compact Drive offshore wind turbine generator in the Karmoy demonstration area, off the coast of Norway.
This suggests that Ming Yang is finally ready to step up its investment in overseas markets. But why does it think this is a good time to focus on European offshore when there are still such big opportunities at home?
The company could, for example, concentrate its efforts on growing its market share in China. The company installed turbines totalling 1.3GW in the country last year, which represented a market share of 8%. This trailed Goldwind, which had a 23.3% share; and Guodian United, with 9.3%.
And that is before we even think about the huge potential for the domestic manufacturing base when it comes to offshore expansion closer to home, both within Chinese territorial waters and further afield within Asia.
It seems strange therefore, to go into battle in Europe; where competition for future sites is already intense, having been dominated by Siemens over recent years.
Indeed, other big firms already vying for a slice of the European offshore pie include MHI Vestas Offshore, Senvion, Alstom and Gamesa. Even for the Chinese, that’s some significant manufacturing might.
We also can’t help the feeling that Ming Yang’s overseas growth plans remain stagnant, at best. Overseas expansion played a bit part in its 2014 first quarter results, published last month.
This is despite the fact that, when the company listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 2010, it said this was a move intended to enable the company to rapidly expand in North and South America, India, Australia, eastern Europe, some countries in central Europe, and South Africa. Four years on the fanfare has faded, and Ming Yang remains largely domestic focused.
Indeed, its most significant overseas deal was undertaken back in November 2013 when the firm committed to build a 200MW wind farm in Romania for domestic developer Speranta & Succesul. Interesting, but hardly groundbreaking.
This all means that the Danish demonstrator site remains an interesting move.
Sure, this could present an opportunity to capitalise on local expertise and knowledge to help develop the turbine before introducing it to the Chinese domestic market. However, given the differences that exist between European and Chinese weather patterns and oceanic conditions, there’s a natural limit to the technological and commercial gains that can be made.
And remember, Ming Yang isn’t struggling to fill its order book. Currently it is working through a domestic backlog of 3.3GW, which has grown by 671MW in the first quarter of this year. With this, a prototype in Europe sits out on a limb.
Ming Yang has grown quickly and it doesn’t lack the ability or resources for future global growth. But what is missing is a clear and coherent commercial strategy.
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