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Chinese offshore target is a "game changer"

Chinese plans to set a 30GW target for installed offshore wind generation by 2020 could be a hard stretch to beat internationally

Chinese could be a "game changer" in offshore wind market, believes company

Chinese expansion in its offshore wind sector could be a potential game changer for the market, compared with the 866MW operating in Europe and 6GW under construction, according to a leading offshore marine services group.

Ian Gaitch, business development director at international marine services firm Offshore Marine Management sees offshore as being China’s next big renewable energy growth market. ‘Chinese offshore wind is attractive because many of its big cities are on the coast. There is also a large continental shelf which means wind farms can be built in shallow water near to the shore’, he says.

It also has the resources for marine renewable development, Gaitch adds. ‘China has the steel, the copper, the vessels and the manpower, and four turbine manufacturers, Sinovel, Goldwind United Power and Mingyang all in the global top ten’, he says.

Gaitch also points out that issues such as planning and aesthetic objections to offshore wind farms within sight of the coast do not present the challenge in China that they do in Europe and the US. However, despite China’s own manufacturing capabilities, rapid offshore growth on this scale could still put unprecedented pressure on the global supply chain.

Offshore wind could also be an answer to China’s well-publicised grid connection challenges. Its ambitious onshore wind growth programme has caused problems in terms of integrating such massive quantities of wind power into the country’s electricity grid in a comparatively short period of time. Many wind turbines installed in the remote north of the country remain unconnected to the grid. In a response to what the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC ), in its 2011 Global Wind Report released at this month’s European Wind Energy Association conference in Copenhagen, calls the country’s ‘rush to scale’, a grid code has now been introduced.

In addition the Chinese National Energy Administration (NEA) has had to introduce new regulations to solve transmission bottlenecks by prohibiting wind farms from being built before approval for grid connections is in place. Grid issues present far less of a problem with nearshore wind farms sited in coastal waters close to population centres.

The GWEC Global Wind Report shows that last year China added 17,630MW of new wind capacity and cemented its place as the leading wind energy market. The total installed wind generation in China at the end of 2011 stood at 62,364 MW. With total electricity generation capacity of just over 1000GW, China’s wind generation now stands at 1.5 per cent of its total electricity supply.

GWEC’s report acknowledges China’s abundant exploitable offshore wind resources, with good wind speeds and long coastline, adjacent to its main population centres. Onshore wind generation potential, according the government’s Fourth National Wind Resource Investigation, is between 1000 and 4000GW with offshore potential in waters from 5-50 metres deep is providing at least another 500GW.

The NEA’s 12th Five Year Plan for renewable energy released in 2011 set a target of 100GW of wind generation to be installed by 2015, of which 5GW would be offshore, rising to 30GW five years later.