Project paves way for offshore wind power boom

Updated: 2012-01-03 17:34


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BEIJING -- China has made substantial progress in boosting its burgeoning offshore wind power by launching its largest intertidal wind farm at the end of 2011.

On December 28, Longyuan Power, China' s largest wind power developer, connected 99.3 megawatts (MW) of  wind turbines to the grid in a pilot intertidal wind farm in Rudong county in eastern province of Jiangsu.

Taking into account the existing 32MW turbines, which went into operation in September 2010, Longyuan has 131.3MW turbines integrated to the grid in the pilot wind farm in Rudong. This has made the Rudong intertidal project China's largest offshore wind farm.

Intertidal wind farms are a unique form to tap offshore wind power. Intertidal areas cover vast sea regions that are submerged in rising tide and heaved out in ebb tide.

According to China' s Wind Power Development Roadmap 2050, recently issued by the energy research institute of National Development and Reform Commission, until 2021, China will focus on onshore wind development.

Overall, China plans to have 1,000 gigawatts (GW) of installed wind capacity by 2050, making up 17 percent of the country's electricity consumption. So far, wind power generation accounts for 1.5 percent of national power generation.

China' s only offshore wind farm in commercial operation is the Shanghai East Sea Bridge Offshore Wind Farm, totaling 102 MW. It went into operation in June 2010, using 34 Sinovel 3MW turbines.

Longyuan started to construct the Rudong intertidal wind farm in June 2009. The first stage of the pilot project, set to be 150 MW in installation, involves an investment of 2.5 billion yuan ($397 million). It will be fully completed in March 2012, said Zhang Gang, general manager of Longyuan Jiangsu Offshore Wind Power.

Zhang said the wind farm will annually generate 330 million kWh of electric power for the grid, saving 97,000 tonnes of standard coal. It can reduce emissions of 267,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide and 1,940 tonnes of sulfur dioxide.

Xie Changjun, general manager of Longyuan, said  "Our construction of the Rudong pilot intertidal wind farm will lead the way for China to develop offshore wind power, particularly in site selection, planning and design, installation and maintenance."

"We will supply a test platform for Chinese offshore wind turbines to go mature. In brief, we will accumulate valuable experiences for China to develop offshore wind power on a large scale,"  Xie said.


High installation cost is a major factor restricting the boom of China' s offshore wind power.

Industry officials say that offshore wind farm construction costs are mainly wind farm facilities and installations. Wind farm facilities, such as wind turbines, foundations and electric cables, make up 79 percent of the total wind farm construction costs. Installation constitutes 15 percent of total costs. Among the installation costs, installation of turbines and foundations makes up 9 percent and submarine cable pavement 6 percent.

Zhang said Longyuan has overcome problems in offshore wind farm construction. It has reached the European advanced level in technology for offshore wind farm construction, while also lowering offshore wind installation costs to 16,000 yuan/kw, about 60 percent of the European level.

Zhang said the secret for lower installation costs include improved technology for single pile foundation forms, which Longyuan applied to install 17 turbines, and multi-pile jacket foundation forms, applied to install 21 turbines.

"According to the current installation costs and interest rates on loans, we may keep the production costs of offshore wind power to about 0.8 yuan/kwh. We may profit this way," Zhang said.

However, he pointed out that with such construction costs, offshore wind power remains weak in competitiveness when connected to the grid. The benchmark feed-in tariffs for onshore wind farms are 0.51-0.61 yuan/kwh.

"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.

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