Offshore wind in China is not entirely new, having started in 2007 with a 1.5MW direct-drive Goldwind turbine installed by the China National Offshore Oil Corporation at the Suizhong oilfield in northern China's Bohia Sea. In June 2010 the 102MW Shanghai Donghai Bridge demonstration project was inaugurated and connected to the grid. A second demonstration project, the 182MW inter-tidal wind farm at Rudong in Jiangsu province, was commissioned in 2012. Both projects were largely experimental in nature, used as proving grounds for different turbines and foundation designs.
The first round of state-sponsored tendering for development of four offshore projects with franchised rights was launched on 10 September 2010. Totalling 1GW in capacity, all were sited off the coast of Jiangsu province in the east of the country, near Yancheng city. A second round of tendering for a total capacity of 1.5-2GW was announced for June 2011 but never took place, and the National Energy Administration's (NEA) final approval of three of the four projects tendered in the first round only came through in August 2013.
The delay was caused by a number of factors, of which maritime re-zoning was a major reason. Offshore wind projects were, in general, required to choose sites further from shore and their plans had to be endorsed by several government departments, such as the State Oceanic Administration. The demanding nature of offshore wind technology, combined with the high cost of building and operation, also plays a role. The lack of clear government policy with no pricing structure for offshore wind made potential investors hesitate.
As a result, cumulative offshore installations by the end of 2013 stood at merely 428MW, accounting for barely 0.5% of the country's total wind installations.
The three offshore projects given NEA approval last August are: Datang New Energy's Jiangsu Binhai (300MW); Longyan Electric Jiangsu Dafeng (200MW); and Luneng's Jiangsu Dongtai (200MW). But, according to the organising committee of July's 2014 offshore wind and operation-and-maintenance conference in Shanghai, installation work has been, or will be, launched this year for seven offshore projects with a combined capacity of nearly 1.5GW. And another 13 projects totalling more than 3.5GW are expected to be launched in 2015.
"The year 2014 will be a new era, a real start for China's offshore wind development," said Liu Qi, deputy general manager of Shanghai Electric, at a press conference earlier this year.
The government's wind-power development planning for the 12th five-year plan period (2010-2015) stated that, based on preliminary results of demo projects, scaled-up offshore wind development will be promoted. Priority will be given to sites in Shanghai, Jiangsu, Hebei and Shandong. And planning and building will be quickened for areas in other costal provinces, such as Zhejiang, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan and Liaoning.
The current five-year period is considered by many industry watchers as critical for China's offshore wind. The building of a host of offshore wind farms to achieve technology maturity, management standardisation and policy adequacy will lay a solid foundation for further development. The country's first offshore wind benchmark pricing system is widely expected to be released this year.
Having accommodated the nation's first large-scale offshore wind project, the city of Shanghai is keen to continue its lead in the sector. In partnership with Siemens, Shanghai Electric has accelerated investment. "Siemens' innovative technology has been incorporated into Shanghai Electric's offshore wind strategy. Our goal is to become the country's number-one offshore player," said Liu Qi.
Statistics compiled by the China Wind Energy Association show that by the end of 2013 the supply of offshore turbines sat at:, Sinovel (39.7%), Goldwind (25/5%), Siemens (11.7%), United Power (9.1%), CSIC Haizhuang (3.3%) and Shanghai Electric (3.2%).
China aims to overtake Europe and have 100GW of wind power capacity installed by the end of 2015, of which around 5GW is expected to be offshore. The overall target can comfortably be met, but the goal for offshore wind will be more difficult to accomplish, admitted Shi Lishan, deputy chief of NEA renewable energy division, earlier this year.
The government's targets for 2020 call for a total of 200GW of wind power capacity, with 30GW of it offshore. That looks like a tall order, but even if China were to achieve half that figure it would almost certainly finish the decade as the world's leading producer of offshore wind energy.