EU counterpunch: recycling initiative battles China's wind power onslaught

Nuying Huang, Taipei; Vyra Wu, DIGITIMES Asia 0


In a seismic shift for the global wind power industry, 2023 witnessed a profound upheaval catalyzed by aggressive pricing strategies from Chinese firms, challenging the traditional dominance of European players in the supply chain. Despite concerted efforts at resistance from European counterparts, the efficacy of their defense has proven limited. However, a glimmer of hope emerges on the horizon with the impending commercialization of recyclable turbine blades, poised to potentially turn the tide.

Six months prior, Europe's efforts to substantiate claims of anti-subsidy measures against Chinese competitors faltered, even as contingency plans were being hatched to establish quotas, quality benchmarks, and recycling standards to fend off sustained assaults from Chinese manufacturers.

While the prospect of recyclable turbine blades presents lucrative opportunities, global commercialization remains stymied, eliciting concerns among governments worldwide. Regulatory responses aimed at thwarting foreign influence could inadvertently impede domestic initiatives. Nevertheless, Taiwan's Swancor Renewable Energy (SRE) stands poised to shatter the impasse with the imminent launch of the first commercial recycling facility for turbine blades in Europe in the fourth quarter of 2024.

Despite the industry turbulence, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE) emerges as a proactive protagonist, having partnered with SRE for nearly two years in recycling endeavors. SGRE's pledge to introduce recyclable turbine blades by 2030 underscores its commitment to adapt to shifting industry paradigms.

As the winds of change buffet the industry, critical market developments to monitor include:

1. Collective Response: Escalating skirmishes between European and Chinese wind energy behemoths spur collective action, exemplified by the European Wind Charter. Recycling materials emerge as a bulwark against external threats, with potential adoption by other wind turbine manufacturers post-successful commercialization.

2. Legislative Momentum: The recognition of recyclable turbine blades as defense mechanisms and eco-friendly solutions is poised to galvanize legislative action. Initiatives such as WindEurope's directive to prohibit landfill disposal of turbine blades by 2025 in the UK, alongside similar regulations in Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands, may catalyze global legislative endeavors.

3. Chinese Engagement: Environmental imperatives and global expansion aspirations propel Chinese manufacturers to participate in recycling initiatives. Notable industry players like Goldwind, a client of SRE, are slated to validate recycling solutions by 2024, signaling a sustainability pivot in the Chinese wind power landscape.

As SRE assumes a pivotal role in the industry's trajectory, Robert Tsai, Chairman of SRE, underscores the collaborative ethos underpinning recycling initiatives and the imperative for bespoke solutions tailored to diverse manufacturer exigencies. However, challenges persist, with wind turbine manufacturers yet to secure patents safeguarding their proprietary formulations.

Amid escalating tensions between European and Chinese wind energy titans, the industry contemplates the metamorphosis of their relationship from cooperation to competition. As the allure of recyclable materials drives industry innovation, SRE's pioneering initiatives herald a new epoch in sustainable wind power production.