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China: the new leader in offshore wind?

China‘s goal is to considerably increase the share of renewable energy in its energy mix. The Fujian wind farm is testimony to this commitment.

The shift seen in China’s 13th Five-Year-Plan might have come to many as a surprise – a shift away from economic growth targets whatever it costs, to a plan which puts much emphasis on environmental issues, such as air quality improvements and development of non-fossil fuel energy sources.

Even though today China still produces more than 70 percent of its electricity from coal, it is estimated that by 2030, about one-fifth of its primary energy needs will be generated from renewable energy sources. Already, China is one of the world’s leading wind energy producers. With a cumulative offshore wind capacity of about 1 gigawatt (GW) in 2015, of which about 360 megawatts (MW) were installed in 2015 alone, it is quickly catching up with the UK, Germany and Denmark if it continues at this rate.

Global and Annual Cumulative Offshore Capacity 2011-2015

The Fujian Putian City Flat Bay offshore wind farm in the Strait of Taiwan in China’s Fujian province is a testimony to China’s commitment to renewable energy and to wind in particular. With 50 MW it is currently one of China’s largest offshore wind farms and the first wind farm in China with 5 MW wind turbines. It consists of 10, 5 MW XE/DD128 wind turbines from XEMC Windpower Co. Ltd., a Chinese supplier of multi-megawatt wind turbines. ABB supplied the medium-voltage wind turbine converters for XEMC’s turbines now installed at the Fujian wind farm.

Like most wind farm developments, the Fujian project also experienced challenges normally associated with such offshore wind farm projects. Being at the mercy of the weather, and as they are often located in remote and hostile environments, it is not unusual for wind farm projects to be delayed. Yet the entire Fujian wind farm project was only delayed by a few months, which is impressively short for such a project. The time from the installation of the wind turbine foundations to grid connection, including building of a new onshore substation, was much faster compared to other projects of this magnitude. I was amazed how focused and passionate the involved teams from the end customer, the turbine manufacturer and suppliers led this project to success.

The Fujian Putian City Flat Bay offshore wind farm, equipped with ABB wind turbine converters, was successfully connected to the grid in the summer of 2016. It is estimated to power more than 35,000 homes annually, reducing CO2 emissions by more than 70,000 tonnes per year.

Further 250 MW and 600 MW Fujian Putian City Flat Bay offshore wind farms are currently in the planning or pre-construction phase. If China continues at this rate, I would not be surprised if it will top the list of the leading wind power producing countries in the future. It will certainly be interesting to follow the wind power development in China and ask ourselves the question: Can we learn something from China?

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