China sailing ahead in offshore wind power

Sept. 8, 2010 at 10:46 AM
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BEIJING, Sept. 8 (UPI) -- Offshore wind power is gaining ground in China.

Chinese energy companies are expected to submit bids Friday for four offshore wind power projects with a total installed capacity of 1,000 megawatts, representing a combined investment of $3.06 billion, China Daily reports.

The proposed projects follow on the heels of the 102-megawatt, $337 million Donghai Bridge Wind Farm, China's first major offshore initiative, which began transmitting power to the national grid in July. The project consists of 34 turbines, each with a 3-megawatt capacity.

While China recently overtook Germany as the second largest wind power developer after the United States, offshore offers a huge potential.

"China has the largest wind resources in the world, and three-quarters of them are offshore," Barbara Finamore, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Beijing office, told Scientific American.

China has an estimated offshore wind power potential of more than 750 gigawatts, far greater than the country's land-based wind potential of 253 gigawatts.

"Construction of offshore wind power projects will be one focus of China's wind power industry in the future. As the country boasts rich offshore wind energy resources, China has great potential in this field," Shi Lishan, deputy director of the new energy department under the National Energy Administration told China Daily.

Most of China's proposed farms would be intertidal -- in which the base of the turbine is covered at high tide and uncovered at low tide -- as is Donghai Bridge Wind Farm in the East China Sea near Shanghai.

Proposed offshore wind farms in Europe, by contrast, are planned mostly in deep water, about 164 feet deep.

While Donghai's capacity is now equivalent to just 1 percent of Shanghai's total power production of about 18,200 megawatts, it is expected to eventually generate 267 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, enough to power 200,000 households in the city, The New York Times reports.

Donghai's completion was expedited with funds from the Chinese Communist Party, news reports say, so that it could be ready in time for 2010 Shanghai World Expo.

By contrast, the first offshore wind farm in the United States, Cape Wind in Nantucket Sound off the coast of Massachusetts received approval from the Obama administration in April, after nearly a decade-long permitting path. The project still faces potential regulatory and judicial obstacles.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, prior to announcing the creation in June of the Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy Consortium, said it takes 7 to 9 years for an offshore wind project in the United States to obtain approval.

"What the U.S. doesn't realize," said Peggy Liu, founder and chairwoman of the Joint U.S.-China Collaboration on Clean Energy, is that China "is going from manufacturing hub to the clean-tech laboratory of the world," the Times said.

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