A native of Gushi in Henan Province, Zhang Chuanwei served in the army for 10 years before going into business. In 1993, he set up Zhongshan Ming Yang Electric, a company focusing on the development and production of power transmission and distribution equipment.
Zhang’s move into the wind power sector started in 2005, when he was invited to visit a large wind turbine manufacturer in Xinjiang. He discovered that his host, as was the norm in China, was using foreign designs to create its turbines. With his experience in electrical control systems, Zhang was confident that he could do better.
His colleagues at Ming Yang Electric were somewhat sceptical. The company, they said, was too small to start manufacturing wind turbines in volume. But Zhang was not to be put off and the following year he established Guangdong Ming Yang Wind Power Technology.
Zhang’s first task was to acquire the technology for his turbine business. He ended up making a deal with Aerodyn, a German company. Zhang suggested that they jointly undertake new design projects: the German company would conduct the research and development, while Ming Yang would create the prototype and test it in China. Although Aerodyn was reluctant at first, Zhang won them over by explaining that Ming Yang’s on-the-ground involvement would provide a platform to showcase their technical skills in China.
Offshore, but on target
In August 2007, Ming Yang produced China’s first anti-typhoon 1.5MW wind-turbine, which soon proved its worth by withstanding two Force 10 typhoons during its trial operation.
Later that year, the company signed a contract to supply 72 wind turbines to US customers for Rmb720 million ($109 million).
Zhang also pioneered a turbine leasing business with Chinese bank ICBC, where the bank buys turbines from Ming Yang and in turn leases them to end users. In 2009, lease orders accounted for 30% of the annual total.
Ming Yang’s immediate strategy is to focus on offshore turbines, with a long-term goal of creating a more integrated offshore product that brings together turbines, energy storage and grid technologies.
Zhang’s ultimate goal is for Ming Yang to become the world leader in offshore wind power. And with the proceeds of a $350 million listing completed in the US last October, he has raised some of the financial resources that he will need to achieve it. According to the South China Morning Post, his main threat may be from firms in the UK, where offshore wind technology is being developed in the gusty North Sea.
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