Offshore wind had a great year in 2021, with over 21 gigawatts installed. If you read CleanTechnica regularly, you may have heard of several offshore wind installations in the North Sea but the action offshore was in China, where 17 gigawatts (GW) of new offshore wind power was installed last year. That’s about 80% of the global total.
There’s a reason for that. According to Canary Media, China enacted a feed-in tariff in 2014 of 850 yuan ($134) for every megawatt-hour supplied to the electric grid by offshore wind farms. That incentive expired on January 1, 2022, so there was a frenzy of activity to get new wind turbines installed at sea before the cutoff date. China now has 26 GW of offshore wind power installed, the most of any nation and nearly half of the world’s cumulative capacity.
China installed its first offshore turbine in 2007, a single 1.5-megawatt machine on an oil platform in the northeastern Bohai Sea. Three years later, the country commissioned its first commercial offshore project. This year, the country’s total installations are expected to fall by several gigawatts because the feed-in tariff has expired, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said in its latest wind report, while installations in the UK and Taiwan are expected to increase. Despite the expiration of the feed-in tariff, China is expected to add more offshore wind power annually than any other country through at least 2035, the last year covered in the Bloomberg forecast.
By comparison, the United States plans to add only 6 GW of offshore wind power by 2029, a rather tepid goal compared to what other nations are doing. According to the US Energy Information Administration, most of that will be along the eastern seaboard of the US, where ocean depths are shallower than along the west coast.
Offshore wind is attractive because the winds tend to be more consistent out to sea than they are closer to shore. That’s good for calculating how profitable a project will be because developers can predict the performance of those turbines with greater accuracy. On the other hand, transmission lines have to be longer, which costs more money, and maintenance costs far out to sea may be higher as well.
Critics like to bash China for its firm embrace of thermal generation, much of it from burning coal, but that nation is investing more money in renewable energy than other nations, just as it is leading the world in the manufacturing of electric vehicles. Looking toward the future, its emphasis on clean energy should help it retain its competitive advantage as one the world’s major industrial powers.
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