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What Does It Take To Build A Wind Turbine Industry?

Anthony Lambkin's picture

Photo: Wind turbinesIn less than 10 years, firms in China, India and South Korea progressed from no wind turbine manufacturing experience to state-of-the-art wind turbine systems. Consider this: Goldwind from China installed 2,727 MW in 2009, a 140% increase on 2008 that saw its international market share rise to 7.2%. The Indian company Suzlon owns 9% of the global market share. What policies led to such robust domestic wind power development?

Last month, the International Finance Corporation's (IFC's) Cleantech Investment Program hosted Dr. Joanna Lewis, a professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, to share research on the strategies used by wind power technology companies in China, India and South Korea to develop wind turbine technology. Lewis is working on a paper that details case studies of the current industry leaders in these three countries, including Suzlon (India), Goldwind (China), and Hyundai, Doosan and Daewoo (South Korea).

In her presentation, Lewis discussed how the primary technology transfer and acquisition strategies utilized by firms in China, India and South Korea included licensing arrangements, mergers and acquisitions that resulted in the transfer of technology ownership, or the joint development of new technology. She emphasized that all of these technology development or acquisition strategies were conducted within the constraints of national and international intellectual property law. Previously, technological know-how was developed primarily by and for the developed world. Today, as technology development becomes increasingly global, firms can take advantage of increasing access to such technological know-how.

There are lessons to be learnt from the different strategies used by the companies to bring wind energy to scale in their regions. India's Suzlon Energy Limited and China’s Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Company are leading wind-turbine manufacturers in their respective home country markets. Both began manufacturing in the 1990s and have used a similar turbine technology licensing strategy to scale up manufacturing. In the early years, Suzlon and Goldwind used foreign licenses to develop their wind turbine technology. As they became more successful, they reached out to additional foreign partners and acquired majority control of foreign companies. With greater know-how, the two companies each ventured into joint technology development.

In comparison, South Korea has been a late-mover with turbine manufacturing―beginning in the early 2000s. Korea’s heavy industry companies—especially Hyundai Heavy Industries, Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction, and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering—were able to enter the wind turbine field because their technological know-how in machinery and shipbuilding were applicable to the wind industry. Their already established global networks and finances provided additional advantages (for more details see this blog post by a research fellow at The Samsung Economic Research Institute). However, wind development in South Korea still lags China and India.

In all three case studies, tapping into global learning/innovation networks is proving to be highly valuable. Suzlon has developed a network of global innovation subsidiaries while maintaining control of enough intellectual property rights to remain at the forefront of global wind turbine manufacturing and sales. Goldwind’s presence has been more limited in the global learning networks, but the company plans to continue R&D, manufacturing and project development overseas. And with a global export focus, Korea recognizes that global technology partnerships will be vital to gain greater shares of the export market and compete with global industry leaders.

Lewis’ study highlighted the need for improving technical capacity in wind turbine design through independent research and testing centers, enabling additional knowledge transfers, and building international innovation networks.

Joanna Lewis’ new paper, "Building a National Wind Turbine Industry: Experiences from China, India and South Korea," will be published in the coming months. To find out more about infoDev, visit:


Submitted by Nitin on
Dr Joanne has rightly pointed out the strategic drivers, namely primary technology transfer & Merger and Acquisition that these Asian companies have deployed as an entry strategy in the Global Wind Energy arena.The wind industry was primarily dominated by the European comapanies till the late 90s and though they had a technological edge, they were unable to achieve economies of scales due to the high cost of manufacturing in high wage economies in their home countries. The leading Asian OEMs were quick enough to encash on this primary technology transfer from the Europeans and with a blend of indegenization & harnessing the benefits of a low wage environment,were able to create a strong manufacturing base. A booming demand against the backdrop of favourable government subsidies saw these leaders on a an exponential growth trajectory. For the other critical technologies, they leapfrogged the design path by treading the M&A pathway. The greatest advantage that these companies enjoy is undoubtedly the level of backward integration that they have achieved and continuous innovation in critical areas will be the need of the hour for maintaining their pole position.

Submitted by gas fires on
Very important point and really need to grow the turbine industry for the real cause but still need some more research done on the concept of adaptation, design and transparency for the betterment of the whole industry.

Submitted by EnergyBook on
Let’s not forget that you need a lot of wind to get any worthwhile energy out of any wind turbine. if you visit a wind farm it feels very windy even when the blades are turning quite slowly. Maybe the answer is microgeneration and diy wind turbines? There are plenty of plans out there however it is always difficult to know how good the plan is that you may buy – price is not always a good indicator… The best thing is to get hold of a few plans – maybe free ones – and then start to think about what type of generator you want to build. Maybe a simple Vertical Axis model first and then you can always build a higher efficiency model. In my view build simple first and get some power then develop and build more.

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