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Winds of change sweep offshore power

日期: 2019-04-22
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Seven mega plants charge China's plans to emerge as world's biggest sea-based energy market

China's offshore wind energy sector is expected to boom this year onward on the back of a maturing onshore segment, and the country's accent on growth via high-quality manufacturing and consumption upgrade.

The maturing of the onshore segment has driven down costs, making this type of clean energy viable, industry insiders said.

China boasts vast resources of onshore and offshore wind energy. It plans to install 30 gigawatt of offshore wind power capacity by 2020, from the 5 GW at the end of 2015, according to the National Energy Administration. It is also readying to build seven large-scale wind power generation plants in Gansu, Hebei, Jilin and Jiangsu provinces, and the Xinjiang Uygur and the Inner Mongolia autonomous regions in 2020.

Tom Harries, senior wind analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a provider of primary research on clean energy, said that last year saw record growth in China's offshore wind market, with commissioned capacity reaching 1.7 GW, or 39.5 percent of the global total of 4.3 GW.

China is one of the fastest expanding offshore wind markets. According to a November forecast from Fitch Solutions, the country is set to dominate the global market.

With the cost of offshore wind power gradually decreasing, analysts believe construction of new offshore wind farms will likely accelerate, more so because the manufacturing sector is expected to consume more power to make high-quality products for domestic consumers as well as for exporting.

'Despite the high cost of offshore wind farms in China, which is twice or three times that of a plant with the same capacity on land, we believe the cost would come down in the next few years, becoming comparable with solar and onshore wind facilities,' said Joseph Jacobelli, an independent energy analyst and Asia-Pacific CEO of clean energy producer Joule Power.

'China's massive progress toward using more clean energy has been accelerating over the past few years, and this is expected to remain unchanged in the short-to-medium term.'

Wind has become China's third-largest power resource after coal and hydro. The installed wind power capacity is expected to increase by 70 to 140 GW every year, according to the China Renewable Energy Outlook 2018, an industry report released by the China Renewable Energy Engineering Institute, a think tank linked to China's National Energy Administration.

Solar and wind-based power will account for the majority of clean power in China's energy mix by 2050, it said.

According to a report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, China will be at the forefront of the increased generation of clean energy, taking the pole position in the wind power market shares by 2050. Its total installed capacity in wind power, covering both onshore and offshore segments, will reach 1,003 GW, accounting for 30 percent of the overall energy pie.

Local governments in the country have been expanding installed capacity of offshore wind power in recent years, as part of the country's efforts to tackle pollution and further boost the share of clean energy in the country's energy mix.

China's Jiangsu province has approved 24 offshore wind power projects with a total capacity of 6.7 GW in January, with total investment of 122.29 billion yuan ($18 billion).

These are part of Jiangsu's 10 GW-level offshore wind power plan known as 'Three Gorges on Sea'. The projects have received the green light and are expected to be completed before the end of 2020.

The southern Guangdong province, where wind power is abundant, also said it will begin construction of more than 10 offshore wind farms sometime this year. They will create 3.65 GW in installed capacity, as part of efforts to improve the province's energy mix for greener economic growth, particularly in the coastal regions.

Guangdong also plans to build offshore wind farms capable of generating a capacity of 12 GW by the end of 2020, according to a plan released by its development and reform commission.

China's offshore wind markets, the world's fastest-growing of their kind, have attracted many global players.

The United Kingdom has opened a new research center in Yantai, Shandong province, in March, to help British wind energy companies' exports to China.

The center will also provide commercial support to Chinese offshore wind developers, and test new technologies on a 300-megawatt wind farm in the Yellow Sea.

British wind energy companies, for long the world leaders in the offshore segment with a total installed capacity of 7.9 GW (out of a global total of 18.8 GW), are looking to export their technologies to China.

For its part, China has been keen to exploit imported know-how to emerge as a global force in offshore energy generation.

FTI Consulting said China's installed capacity will surpass the UK as the world's leader in offshore wind power.

According to Jacobelli, the expected rise in capacity on the back of higher investment is no surprise at all. 'As the technology gradually matures, and developers become more efficient in the construction process and installations, the price will progressively drop. There will be an increase in offshore wind power, which the government is keen to develop. The growth in offshore wind generation capacity should be gradual.'

FTI Consulting expects China's cumulative offshore capacity to pull ahead of the UK after 2021, thus putting the country on course to becoming the world's biggest offshore wind market.

Soren Lassen, an offshore wind analyst at energy research and consultancy company Wood Mackenzie, said given the segment's rapid growth in both China and the UK, other countries will find it hard to keep up.

China's many energy behemoths are also eyeing the offshore wind market, including China Three Gorges Corp, which built and now operates the world's largest hydroelectric power plant, the Three Gorges Dam, and China General Nuclear Power Corporation.

According to China General Nuclear Power Group, it kicked off construction of an offshore wind-power project located off Nanpeng Island in Yangjiang, Guangdong province, last year. Its installed capacity of 400 MW will be the biggest in the country, and is expected to generate about 1.46 billion kilowatt-hour of electricity annually when it goes on stream in 2020.

According to Huang Xiaofei, the company's spokesman, the project will entail an investment of 8 billion yuan and includes a 220-kilovolt offshore booster station, a 35 kV collector cable system, a 220 kV undersea cable system and an onshore control center.

It will promote the development of offshore wind power and improve the clean energy structure of Guangdong province.

This is the company's third self-constructed offshore wind power project. The first one is in Rudong, Jiangsu province, and the second one is in Pingtan, Fujian province. The 400 MW project will have strategic significance for western Guangdong's industrial upgrade, and is also important for the region's economic and social development.

The company, a major investor in the domestic wind power market, said it will focus on further developing offshore wind power resources during the 2016-20 period.

It currently has wind farm and solar power assets in the UK, France, Belgium, Ireland and Netherlands. In July 2018, it acquired a 75-percent stake in North Pole Wind Power Project in Sweden, the largest onshore wind farm in Europe, from Australian energy company Macquarie Group and US-based General Electric Co.


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