China's offshore ambitions in Jiangsu fail to progress

Doubts raised about achievement of 5GW offshore target by 2015

China’s efforts to develop an offshore wind sector appear to have failed, due primarily to a lack of co-operation between the main government bodies charged with overseeing energy infrastructure and marine development

Four offshore projects announced in October 2010, earmarked for waters off Jiangsu province, have failed to progress and are not expected to be built, according to Li Junfeng, director of the China Renewable Energy Industries Association. Proceeding with a second offshore tender round, originally planned for this year, is unrealistic given the failure of the first round, adds Li.

Despite lack of progress in Jiangsu, the northern province of Hebei has just been granted approval by the National Energy Bureau (NEB) to develop 5.6GW in offshore wind power projects, with a proportion of this expected to be online by 2015 (see separate news story).

A primary reason for the failure of the four Jiangsu offshore concessions to move ahead were revisions made to the marine zones already earmarked by the NEB for offshore development. After the NEB’s tender was completed the zones in question were altered by the State Oceanic Administration (SOA), resulting in a reduction in the size of projects and/or their movement further from shore.

"Legally, the first offshore concession projects still exist. But in reality, they have all ended," explained Li, speaking at Offshore Wind China 2012 in Shanghai. "The locales for the projects have changed. The water depth of the sea areas have changed. The types of offshore wind turbines will surely change."

The Jiangsu tender winners are also reluctant to proceed, according to Li, because the feed-in tariffs they would receive, ranging from 0.62-0.73 yuan/kw, are not viewed as sufficient to ensure financial viability.

To date, China has only two offshore projects in operation. They are the 102MW Shanghai East Sea Bridge offshore wind project and the 131MW Rudong inter-tidal wind project. The failure of the Jiangsu projects have prompted industry insiders to question whether China will meet its target of 5GW offshore installed capacity by 2015 and 30GW by 2020.

"The problem does not rest with wind project developers. Nor does it come from technologies. It is with the government. The State Oceanic Administration has not told us which sea areas can be used to construct offshore wind farms," said Li.

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