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China Fast Forward: The Technologies, Green Industries and Innovations Driving the Mainland's Future by Bill Dodson

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Chapter 7

Consider the Alternatives

The lunch banquet in the cold, drafty restaurant dining room halted. Guests at the meal put down their utensils to listen intently to the portent. “The offshore wind industry will have terrible accidents because of quality issues and the speed of construction,” Mr. Wang said. Mr. Wang was a young man, portly, good natured and a lively host. However, his voice had become grave with the prognostication. Even his colleague, a young Chinese named Leslie, seemed to pale at the prediction. Wang was a senior business manager in the offshore wind division of the private shipbuilder, Daoda Heavy Industry. The dockyard I visited at the end of 2010 had been under the Yangtze River three years before, all swift, muddy currents bounded by hard clay and tall weeds. Now, the hull of a 30,000 dead-weight ton (DWT) ship lay off to one side of the new dock. Workers were fitting the deck with equipment. Across from the ship, an 80-meter tall wind turbine stood like a sentry at the water’s edge. The turbine maker had shipped the working model to the dockyard to test the stability of its concrete foundations. Daoda, like so many of China’s wind turbine component makers, was learning through trial and error. Daoda’s leap into building wind turbine foundations spoke volumes about the entire alternative power sector in China.

In 2005 the central government articulated a policy to develop alternative energy sources to supplement its use of fossil fuels. The leadership ...

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