China speeds up offshore wind energy

China will give top priority to developing offshore wind power projects to boost its flourishing wind turbines industry in 2010. The government would put large-scale offshore wind power concession projects out to tender, said Shi Lishan, deputy director of the New Energy and Renewable Energy Department of the National Energy Bureau.

Han Wenke, director of the Energy Research Institute of National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), said China had no choice, but to vigorously develop renewable energy, including wind energy. To reach the ambitious target of constructing a moderately prosperous society in 2020 and become a medium developed country level in 2050, China must boost its economy and naturally consume more energy, Han said.

China relies on coal for about 70 percent of its energy. The government expects to increase non fossil-based energy sources to 15 percent of total energy consumption by 2020, with wind energy playing a major role. At present, fossil-based energy sources supply 87 percent of the country’s total energy consumption.

China’s National Energy Bureau (NEB) and State Oceanic Administration (SOA) jointly put into effect an Interim Measure on the Management of Offshore Wind Farm Development. Regulating every aspect of offshore wind farm development, the 38-article document is widely seen as a boost for offshore wind farms across the country.

It stipulates that offshore wind farms must be developed through public tender, with consideration of offered prices to send power to grids, project plans, technical abilities, and performance results. The developers must be Chinese-funded enterprises or Sino-foreign joint ventures with majority Chinese ownership.

There are no restrictions banning foreign businesses from exclusively investing in land-based wind farms. But since Chinese land-based wind farms barely make money, no foreign businesses solely run wind farms on the Chinese mainland.

The measure also requires that if the businesses do not start construction within two years of winning the tender, the NEB will revoke project development rights. The NEB has asked the country’s 11 coastal provinces to report plans for offshore wind farm concession projects.

"The offshore wind farm concession projects initiated on this basis will accumulate experience for China to develop large offshore wind farms in the future," said Qin Haiyan, secretary general of the China Wind Energy Association.

Last year, 10,129 wind turbines were installed, totaling 13,803 MW, up 124 percent over the previous year. By the end of 2009, China’s total installed wind turbines reached 21,544, amounting to 25,805 MW, up 114 percent over the end of 2008.

China has overtaken Germany as the second largest wind energy developer after the United States. However, China is still beginning to develop its offshore wind power sector, due to complex operating environments for offshore wind turbines, high technological requirements, and construction difficulties.

Offshore wind farms are constructed in sea areas below the average high tide marks of coastal areas over the years, and uninhabited islands in sea areas. However, offshore wind farm remained an orientation of future wind power development, said Qin.

China’s offshore wind power potential is estimated at more than 750 GW (exploitable at the height of 10 meters), much larger than the 253 GW of exploitable land-based wind power potential, said China Meteorological Administration.

The country’s first pilot offshore wind farm was constructed in 2008. The Shanghai East Sea Bridge Offshore Wind Farm has a total installed capacity of 100 MW, comprising 34 sets of 3 MW wind turbines from Sinovel, the country’s largest wind turbine producer.

China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) is beginning construction this year of an offshore wind farm in Weihai, east China’s Shandong Province, which is scheduled to produce 1.1 GW in 10 years. The first stage will have 30 sets of 1.5 MW wind turbines producing 45 MW.

On February 2, Shenhua Group Corporation announced it would start early phase works for the examination and approval of the third stage project of the Dongtai Wind Farm (a 300 MW offshore project, with 84 sets of 3.6 MW wind turbines from Shanghai Electric.) It has also started planning for the fourth stage 300 MW offshore project, scheduled to have 84 sets of 3.6 MW wind turbines from Shanghai Electric.

Other leading Chinese power businesses, such as China Power Investment Corporation, Longyuan Electric and Huaneng New Energy, have also been attracted to the promising offshore wind power sector. They have begun to study offshore wind farms in Dafeng and Rudong of east China’s Jiangsu Province and Roncheng of east China’s Shandong Province.

Chinese wind turbine manufacturers are investing heavily to grab a share of the market. Sinovel, an early starter, began to develop offshore wind turbines in 2006. It has focused on developing 3 MW and 5 MW offshore wind turbines. In April 2009, work began to install its 3 MW wind turbines in the Shanghai East Sea Bridge Offshore Wind Farm, said Han Junliang, board chairman of Sinovel.

In January this year, Sinovel started construction of a 5 MW offshore turbine production base in Yancheng, Jiangsu Province. Han said Sinovel had finished designing the 5 MW turbines and would produce the first sample turbine at the end of the year.

Goldwind, China’s second largest wind turbine producer, is expected to complete construction of a production base for offshore wind turbines in Dafeng, Jiangsu Province, in October. In three to five years, the base will have an annual capacity of 800 to 1,000 sets of wind turbines. Dongfang Electric, Shanghai Electric and XEMC are also eyeing the offshore wind turbine market.

Foreign wind turbine producers are eager to join. Vestas, of Denmark, has intensified market research and exploration of the Chinese offshore wind power market. It has set up an offshore wind power office, dedicated to develop Chinese offshore wind power business. Siemens are considering setting up an offshore wind turbine plant in Weihai, Shandong Province.