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19 July 2019

GE factory in China to sit inside new offshore wind cluster

GE has piled into the Chinese wind eco-system, committing to the build out of an offshore factory in Jieyang’s Offshore Wind cluster in the Chinese province of Guangdong. It will also establish an operations center in Guangzhou.

GE claims it has growing demand for its wind turbines in China and throughout the Asia Pacific region and it will begin building the factory at the end of 2019 and begin turbine assembly in H2 2021. The industrial park at Jieyang aims to develop an offshore wind cluster with a marshaling harbor and industry-related suppliers, to serve local and regional projects. It is centrally located to serve the South China Sea.

GE plans to carry out local offshore R&D for local designs – typically China has shallow surrounding seas, with soft seabed, which means a different style of fixed bottom support. The site will also support customers throughout optimizing project costs, training, data management and operation and maintenance services. This new center will be the regional sales and project management office for GE Renewable Energy’s offshore wind business.

John Lavelle, CEO of offshore wind at GE Renewable Energy, said “China is poised to become one of the largest offshore wind markets in the world, and according to Guangdong’s Offshore Development Master Plan, 66 GW will come from the Guangdong region alone towards 2030. The cutting-edge technology of our Haliade-X 12 MW, the world’s most powerful offshore wind turbine, will bring value to our customers in the region. Our new factory in Jieyang and the Operation & Development Center in Guangzhou will put us in a better position to meet our customer’s demands in this fast-growing industry, while contributing to meet China’s growing offshore wind ambitions.”

Around the world GE has gambled on going big with its Haliade-X design, which seems to us to be a make or break $500 million investment. It remains largely untried and untested, and has made a bigger single leap in size than any of the other major wind turbine makers. Failure to break into the Chinese market on the back of it would be little less than a disaster for GE. This is an investment the company must make.

The company says that it has provided 200 gas turbines, 180 steam turbines,

over 1300 wind turbines to the Chinese market and cooperated with more than 100 Chinese EPC companies in overseas projects in 65 countries.

Market leader and keen rival Denmark’s Vestas also has a strong presence in China, but it was only recently that it got its first order directly from one of the State Power companies rather than working through local suppliers. It employs 2,500 people there and in April took an order for 101 especially tall turbines for onshore wind in China.

GE’s new offshore wind factory in China will serve regional projects but it confirms that its Saint-Nazaire assembly site in France which also makes the Haliade-X 12 MW prototype, will look after most non-Asia markets and is its global offshore wind headquarters. We suspect that depends on whether there continues to be friction between the French government and GE over promises made around the takeover of Alstom.