Storm of praise for wind expert

Updated: 2013-08-23 08:10

By Meng Jing (China Daily)

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 Storm of praise for wind expert

Andreas DuBois says he dreams of seeing China totally powered by renewable energy. Provided to China Daily

Accolades for German's contribution to renewable energy industry

Andreas DuBois has visited Qingdao, a coastal city in East China's Shandong province, several times. But recently, the 56-year-old a wind-power expert had his first holiday there courtesy of the Chinese government. The trip was its way of thanking him for his contribution to the country.

The one-week holiday is part of the Friendship Award, China's highest award for foreign experts. DuBois, a German, is director of China Wind Power (Research and Training) Program, a project jointly funded by China and Germany to pass on German know-how on renewable energy to China.

The program has not only transferred some of the most cutting-edge wind power technologies from Europe to China but also helped train thousands of Chinese in the industry by inviting German experts to teach in China.

"My dream is to have China renewably powered, and technically it is possible," says DuBois, sitting in his office at the China Electric Power Research Institute in Beijing, a subsidiary of the State Grid Corporation of China, where his Chinese colleagues call him "Laodu" (old Du).

Wind power overtook nuclear power last year to become the third-largest power in China's energy mix after coal and hydro. But when DuBois first became involved in China's wind-power industry in 1990, few people saw wind as a promising source of energy with the potential to fuel China's growth.

"Those who were interested at that time were only engineers, who were neither economists nor decision makers," says DuBois, who decided to work in the renewable energy field after several nuclear reactor accidents in the late 1970s.

"It was the same as in Germany: people running nuclear plants and coal-fired plants were laughing at renewable energy. But if you look back and look at what we have now, it is a huge development and a big success."

For him, nuclear is not green energy. "The conversion process of uranium ore to fuel still contains CO2 and the nuclear waste can stay dangerous for thousands of years. It is just irresponsible to put our future generations in danger," he says, adding it was the main reason for him to do a master's degree on renewable energy in Britain in the early 1980s.

The program was called "Alternative energy for developing countries", because the thinking at the time was that renewable energy was something only for the remote areas in developing countries, he says.

He had been involved in many projects in developing countries, such as Cape Verde and Argentina, until 1990, when he got his first project in China, a small wind farm on a remote island named Shengsi in Zhejiang province. The pilot project was the second wind farm in China and the first one funded by foreign countries.

"The wind farm has 10 small turbines, generating 30 kW each," says DuBois, who recalls every detail of the wind farm as if he was there yesterday.

"Can you imagine the tower was only 15 meters tall? Nowadays they are at least 70 meters."

The project is one of seven projects the German government funded in developing countries between 1985 and 1993 and is regarded as the most successful, he says. "It was like we planted a seed in China's wind power sector."

With the successful operation of the pilot wind farm, many cities in China were interested in building their own farms, and even wanted to pay for it themselves, prompting the German government to offer low-interest loans to China so it could buy wind turbines.

The pilot projects helped the German side secure about 20 wind-farm contracts from China, and DuBois flew to China once or twice a year in the 1990s to help Chinese customers check the quality of the equipment from Germany because there were few people in China with the requisite skills.

With China's wind power industry growing steadily since 2000, it was clear to the German government that China no longer needed its financial help.

"We'd seen that in 2002 if China wanted to largely develop its wind power, it needed to build up its manpower," says DuBois, who was appointed via the consulting firm MVV decon/ GOPA-intec by GIZ, formerly known as GTZ, which mainly assists the German government in international cooperation, to set up a training program in China.

"In Germany we think it is in our own interest if China's wind farms work appropriately and save CO2 instead of just standing there."

He then moved his family to Beijing in 2005 and started to run the program in China, where he believes he has the greatest opportunity to develop wind power.

"Basically the program is a training center to build the capacity of engineers, technicians and teachers. We think it is very important because the development in this sector in China is so rapid, that there is not enough time for people to learn why things are done in certain ways."

He attributes his Friendship Award to good fortune, and says he could not have won it without the help of his Chinese colleagues.

Despite his modesty, his colleagues speak highly of him. Wang Weisheng, director of the Renewable Energy Department at the China Electric Power Research Institute, was glowing in his praise.

"It is very rare for such an international cooperative project to last so long," says Wang, who has known DuBois since 2002. "Though he speaks little Chinese, he truly understands our needs and requirements, so he acts perfectly as the bridge between the Chinese side and the German side.

"Our renewable energy department had not even been founded when he arrived here. But we are about to give our first training sessions to overseas engineers in September, thanks to him."

The Sino-German training program is due to end in October next year, but DuBois has no plans to leave China, which he now considers home.

"I would like to be part of the change in renewable energy and to contribute my full potential in China. There is so much to be done in China's renewable sector. I know I can't do it all by myself, but I'd like to have the opportunity to meet someone who can turn the wheels."

(China Daily European Weekly 08/23/2013 page29)