UK Skills Can Speed 5,000 MW China Offshore Wind Plan For 2015

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China offshore wind farm (China Daily/Xun Congjun)

In a tripartite report released Friday, the Carbon Trust has suggested China accelerate its progress with offshore wind energy by taking cues from the UK’s extensive research, funding, and deployment expertise.

Like other nations, the colossus of southeast Asia has major concerns about continuing to rely on coal for energy. Coal currently supplies about 70% of China’s power, and China has relatively recently overtaken the US as the world’s #1 greenhouse gas polluter. The Chinese government has established ambitious targets of 5,000 megawatts (5 gigawatts) of offshore wind power installed by 2015 and 30,000 megawatts by 2030. Supplying large amounts of wind energy close to the country’s huge east coastal cities would help meet demand in a renewable and geographically sensible way.

To that end, the Chinese Wind Energy Association and CECEP Wind-Power Corporation teamed with the British Embassy in Beijing to investigate ways a China offshore wind plan could scale up its capabilities quickly. Over 20 Chinese companies collaborated with the Carbon Trust to assemble the reports (PDFs available below):

Offshore Wind in China—Sharing the UK’s policy experience

Mapping existing technology solutions to barriers identified in China’s Offshore Wind industry

Detailed appraisal of the offshore wind industry in China

Presently, China is developing about 1,000 megawatts of nearshore projects, but technical and commercial barriers are hindering these efforts toward a China offshore wind plan.

The Carbon Trust identified some of the technical issues as corrosion and heat with Chinese-manufactured turbines offshore and uncertain foundation stability for traditional concrete monopile towers in the soft, silty soils of China’s east coast.

Commercial barriers for China include uncertainty over long-term pricing policy from project developers and those responsible for protecting consumers from high costs; a regime noted for historically slim abilities to fast-track technological projects; and the lack of a focused scheme of handling deployment costs and commercializing quickly.

The research team developed three key recommendations for a China offshore wind plan:

Collaborate on European Joint Industry Projects to enable better understanding of cost-sparing innovations (such as twisted jackets and gravity-based foundations, floating LIDARs for economical wind measurement, and North Sea suction bucket technology).

Develop Operational Experience through Co-Investment: Invest with European developers, not only for returns, but also to build operational capabilities for cost reduction. (Example: Marubeni’s co-investment in the UK’s Gunfleet Sands offshore wind farm with Dong Energy.)

Establish Offshore Wind Farm Zones: Give confidence to the market to relax constraints and avoid surprises in the consent process by creating leasing zones for future rounds of offshore wind development (perhaps by combining the authorities of the National Energy Administration, State Oceanic Administration, and Chinese Meteorological Administration).

In addition, say the advisors, China could help speed the process by developing publicly funded research and demonstration projects, offshore wind capital grants, and an ongoing price support mechanism to balance developer incentives with government costs and to ensure electricity consumers and taxpayers value for their money.

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