China’s largest wind company blows into Texas

Source: By Jordan Blum, Houston Chronicle • Posted: Monday, May 23, 2016

China-based Goldwind, the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturer, is buying into Texas for the first time with its largest wind farm in the U.S.

Rapidly growing Goldwind just surpassed Denmark’s Vestas Wind Systems as the world’s top wind turbine supplier, according to a new report Wednesday from Navigant Research. Other giants like Germany’s Siemens and General Electric ranked just behind.

Goldwind is growing specifically  in Texas as well. The Chinese company said this week it bought the developing Rattlesnake Wind Project that’s 125 miles northwest of Austin from United Kingdom-based Renewable Energy Systems for an undisclosed sum. The McCulloch County wind farm in Texas will consist of 64 of Goldwind’s 2.5-megawatt wind turbines. A planned second phase will eventually double its size.

Texas for years has led the nation by far in wind power. After $7 billion in power lines through much of the Texas Panhandle came online in 2014 to connect wind farms to the state’s more populous regions, the wind industry in Texas has continued to surge. A recent extension in December of the federal production tax credit for wind projects is only expected to add more. Wind power is so bountiful in Texas that the state’s grid has routinely begun to see negative power prices during periods of strong wind overnight when there is little demand for power.

“This investment in the Rattlesnake Wind Project highlights our long-term commitment to the U.S. wind market and represents our first step of a five-year growth strategy to capitalize on the extension of the production tax credit,” said David Halligan, Goldwind Americas CEO, in a prepared statement.

Other Chinese wind turbine companies are growing as well.

“Most wind turbine suppliers rode a record wave of wind capacity installation globally,” said Jesse Broehl, senior research analyst with Navigant Research. “This is especially true for the Chinese suppliers that represented 48 percent of 2015 capacity additions (worldwide).”

As for Rattlesnake project, Goldwind’s planned wind farm is not to be confused by the existing Rattlesnake Wind Energy Center built last year and owned by SunEdison’s TerraForm Power. Apparently, wind farms are so prevalent in Texas they’re already producing duplicate names.

The Texas power grid has increasingly relied on wind power and cheap and bountiful natural gas-fueled power in recent years, decreasing the state’s dependency on coal-fired power plants. The state also is expected to see a surge in solar power that has already begun.

A new report this week funded by the Texas Clean Energy Coalition contended that 60 percent of the state’s coal plant fleet could retire by 2022 because of poor — or nonexistent — profit margins and increasing environmental regulations.