Hong Kong plans 100 MW offshore wind farm by 2015

The offshore wind farm’s EIA report is available for public inspection at EPD website from 8 February to 9 March. HK Electric is proposing the development of an offshore wind farm in the Southwest Lamma Channel with a generating capacity of around 100 megawatt (MW) and an annual production of 170 million units of electricity which is enough wind energy for about 50,000 families in Hong Kong, representing 1-2% of the company’s annual electricity output.

About 28 to 35 wind turbines, each of 2.3-3.6 MW, will be installed at the 600-hectare site and details of the proposed wind farm together with its environmental impact assessment (EIA) study will be available for public inspection starting on Monday (8 February).

The EIA study has reviewed the environmental efficiency of eight potential sites in total and affirmed that the location which is four kilometers from Lamma Island is the best option for the wind power project, scheduled for completion by 2015.

Apart from wind power resources, environmental impacts including terrestrial ecology, marine ecology, landscape and visual impact, cultural heritage, water quality, noise, nature conservation and fisheries had also been assessed in determining site feasibility.

The EIA study, which covers both onshore and offshore sites, also concluded that Hong Kong does not have sufficient land for wind farm development and alternatively, an offshore wind farm can help harness wind resources effectively.

HK Electric General Manager (Projects), Mr. Frank Lau said that the company has embarked on the project to support government policy and satisfy public aspirations to develop renewable energy in Hong Kong while fulfilling its commitment to help combat climate change and improve air quality.

"The project contributes positively to the environment as it can supplant the annual use of 62,000 tonnes of coal, reducing carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions by 150,000, 520 and 240 tonnes respectively," Mr. Lau said.

The Southwest Lamma site is preferred since it has the least environmental impact among all potential sites and its proximity to the company’s power base – Lamma Power Station – can provide strong logistic support during construction stage. For instance, wind turbines can first be assembled at the power station before delivering to the site for installation, offering extra conveniences and reducing project costs.

In response to EIA findings, HK Electric engineers have enhanced the design and engineering aspects of the wind farm to ensure environmental efficiency. "In the wind farm layout, a geometric design is adopted to help reduce visual impacts and navigational risk. Wind turbines will also be installed in such a way to minimize site area," Mr. Lau said.

A three-year bird monitoring exercise will be carried out as a precautionary measure. This is despite the fact that the EIA report did not envisage any adverse residual impacts on terrestrial ecology. "The selected site is not located within important bird habitat or on the flight path of migratory birds, and it does not provide important foraging grounds for birds, we believe the impact of the wind farm to the birds is low," Mr. Lau added.

On marine ecology, the selected site is not the major activity area of marine mammals and sea turtles and that the EIA study estimated that there will be no unacceptable impacts to the marine ecology.

"Nevertheless, a series of mitigation and monitoring measures will be put forward, including restricting the speed of construction ships, avoiding foundation works during peak marine mammal season and the adoption of marine mammal and sea turtle exclusion zones during part of the construction period."

"Marine mammal abundance, behaviour and distribution will be monitored through vessel-based surveys, passive acoustic monitoring and land-based theodolite tracking," he continued.

As for fishery, the EIA study did not anticipate any significant adverse impacts on water quality or to any fishing grounds or species of importance to the fishery.

"The foundation of wind turbines takes up an area of 0.16 hectare, which is less than 0.0001% of the total area of Hong Kong waters. In addition, if fishing is prohibited in the wind farm area, the habitat lost to fisheries operations is less than 1% of Hong Kong waters. Hence, no significant impact to capture fisheries in the area is expected. We will continue with our dialogue with the fishery sector with a view to enhancing fishing resources in the area," Mr. Lau noted.

The project’s EIA report will be available for public inspection at various locations from 8 February to 9 March. Members of the public are welcome to submit their comments to the Environmental Protection Department within the inspection period. 

Mr. Lau further said that pending the endorsement of the report, HK Electric will carry out wind monitoring work at the site while continuing to engage key stakeholders in the process.