South Korea unveils offshore wind energy project

Under the three-phase plan, the country will first build a "proving area" by 2013 in waters off the coast of southwestern Buan and Yeonggwang counties to test 20 five-megawatt wind turbines from various South Korean manufacturers, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said.

South Korea joins China, Denmark, the U.S. and other countries in developing offshore wind farms. Global offshore wind power capacity totals 2.9 gigawatts, with 2.6 gigawatts under construction and about 154 gigawatts planned or proposed

An additional 180 five-megawatt wind turbines will be installed by 2016, followed by 300 five-megawatt wind turbines by 2019 at the proposed wind farm complex that will generate a total of 2,500 megawatts of electricity.

The wind energy project has been scaled down from an earlier plan. Ministry officials told Yonhap in September that the government had planned to build up to 1,000 wind turbines by 2019.

The value of the wind power project, however, remains little affected as the cost of building the foundation for the complex and underwater grids takes up nearly half of the entire cost, the ministry officials said.

"The plan is to make South Korea the world’s third-largest country in terms of offshore wind power generation," Kang Nam-hoon, head of the ministry’s energy and climate change policy division, told a press briefing.

"And to be able to export related equipment and technology, we need a good track record of actually building and operating such facilities. The project partly aims to do that," he added.

Dongkuk Structure & Construction Co. and other wind power- related companies gained in Seoul trading. Dongkuk Structure & Construction, which makes forged products for wind power, was up 2.1 percent at 9,680 won at 11:09 a.m.

Hyunjin Materials Co., which makes wind-turbine parts, rose 3.6 percent to 20,200 won, while Yonghyun BM Co. gained 2.2 percent to 14,150 won.

The proposed plan comes as Seoul is working to increase its use of renewable energy sources as the country currently depends on imports for nearly 97% of all its energy needs.

The government is expected to soon introduce the so-called Renewable Portfolio Standards, or RPS, for enforcement from the beginning of 2012.

South Korea pledged in late 2009 to voluntarily cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% from its forecast or business-as-usual level in 2020.