China speeds up offshore wind power construction

11:03, March 20, 2010      

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China will give top priority to developing offshore wind power projects to boost its flourishing wind power industry in 2010, according to a senior energy official .

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 at a recent seminar sponsored by Chinese Renewable Energy Industry Association (CREIA).

"We have formulated basic ideas and formalities for the tenders," said Shi, but he would not elaborate on the timetable and exact sites in the concession project list.

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 power.

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 power playing a major role. At present, fossil-based energy sources supply 87 percent of the country's total energy consumption.

On Jan. 23, 2010, 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.

In April 2009, the NEB required the provinces to map out offshore wind farm programs. Under the policy of unified planning and stage-based construction, the NEB will approve a number of sites for offshore wind farms with 1 million kilowatts or higher of installed capacity.

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

China has overtaken Germany as the second largest wind power developer after the United States.

However, China is still beginning to develop its offshore wind power sector, due to complex operating environments for offshore 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 power remained an orientation of future wind power development, said Qin.

China's offshore wind power potential is estimated at more than 750 million kilowatts (exploitable at the height of 10 meters), much larger than the 253 million kilowatts 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 100MW, comprising 34 sets of 3MW turbines from Sinovel, the country's largest wind turbine producer. It will go into operation before the inauguration of the World Expo Shanghai, which is scheduled for May 1, 2010.

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 1.1GW in 10 years. The first stage will have 30 sets of 1.5MW 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 300MW offshore project, with 84 sets of 3.6MW turbines from Shanghai Electric.) It has also started planning for the fourth stage 300MW offshore project, scheduled to have 84 sets of 3.6MW 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 3MW and 5MW offshore wind turbines. In April 2009, work began to install its 3MW 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 5MW offshore turbine production base in Yancheng, Jiangsu Province. Han said Sinovel had finished designing the 5MW 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 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 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.

Senior officials of Germany's Siemens are considering setting up an offshore turbine plant in Weihai, Shandong Province.

Source: Xinhua
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