BEIJING, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- China has launched its largest intertidal wind farm.
The pilot offshore wind farm in Rudong county, Jiangsu province, by Longyuan Power, China' s largest wind power developer "will lead the way for China to develop offshore wind power, particularly in site selection, planning and design, installation and maintenance," said Longyuan General Manager Xie Changjun, Xinhua News Agency reported.
Construction on the facility began in June 2009 with a $397 million investment for the 150-megawatt first phase, expected to be completed in March.
In the launch, 99.3 megawatts were connected to the grid.
Rudong's intertidal wind farm will generate 330 million kilowatts of electric power for the grid, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 267,000 tons and sulfur dioxide by 1,940 tons while saving 97,000 tons of standard coal, Longyuan Jiangsu Offshore Wind Power says.
Intertidal refers to areas that are above water at low tide and under water at high tide.
So far the 102-megawatt Shanghai East Sea Bridge Offshore Wind Farm is China's only other commercial-scale offshore wind facility, operating since June 2010.
China has a great potential for offshore wind power, up to 750 gigawatts, or three times that of onshore wind resources, says China Meteorological Administration, with industrial centers on the eastern and southern coasts showing the greatest promise.
Currently wind power accounts for 1.5 percent of China's total power generation.
China's National Energy Administration calls for China to have the capacity to generate 5 gigawatts from offshore wind power by 2015.
And by 2020, China aims to construct offshore wind projects totaling 30 gigawatts. Experts say China would need about 6,000 offshore turbines with a 5-megawatt capacity to meet that target.
The World Bank is considering private-sector investment in offshore wind farms in Jiangsu and Fujian provinces, China Daily newspaper reports.
While high installation costs have previously hampered the growth of China's offshore wind power sector, Zhang Gang, general manager of Longyuan Jiangsu Offshore Wind Power, says the company has managed to achieve a European advanced-level in technology while reducing installation costs to roughly 60 percent of the European level.
Given the current installation costs and interest rates on loans, Zhang projects the company can keep offshore wind power production costs down.
Still, he admits that "we need to make greater breakthroughs in cost control and turbine quality, if we are to develop offshore wind power at a large scale," Zhang said.