UK firm plans wind farm off Sai Kung
Project would see turbines as tall as Jardine House to serve Tseung Kwan O
A British-based renewable energy company is planning to build Hong Kong's first commercial wind farm off Sai Kung.
Under the plan, up to 50 massive wind turbines - described as being 'as tall as Jardine House with blades as long as a Boeing jet' - will be built on the Ninepin islands, or Kwo Chau Kwan To.
The turbines could each produce 4MW of electricity to serve residents of the populous new town Tseung Kwan O.
Wind Prospect (Hong Kong) general manager Alex Tancock said the company was consulting various government departments, academics and power companies about the project.
'We are in the feasibility study phase, and it is hard to say what the total cost will be until we complete the study,' he said. 'Our intention is to complete it as soon as we can.'
The company hopes to form an alliance with CLP Power, the city's largest electricity supplier serving Kowloon, the New Territories and Lantau, to distribute the electricity.
A CLP spokeswoman confirmed that Wind Prospect had approached the utility for possible participation in the project.
'We are obtaining further information on the project before deciding on the next step forward,' she said.
A spokesman for the Environment, Planning and Lands Bureau would not confirm whether the bureau was in talks with Wind Prospect, saying only that it received inquiries about different green energy projects from time to time.
Wind Prospect operates four wind projects in England and has some projects under development in Scotland, Ireland and Australia.
It has advised CLP on renewable energy projects.
The company is an offshoot of Windcluster, a pioneering wind power developer that was set up in the UK in 1988.
News of the planned wind farm comes as the government is seeking public views on changes to the city's electricity market after the Scheme of Control, which regulates the sector, expires in 2008.
Identifying the city's two power firms, CLP and Hongkong Electric, as the main local source of air pollution, the Environment, Transport and Works Bureau plans to toughen their emissions standards and aims to have 1 to 2 per cent of the city's electricity coming from renewable sources by 2010.
The Wind Prospect project would be the biggest, but not the first, wind generation scheme in Hong Kong. Hongkong Electric has erected a wind turbine on Lamma that is due to begin serving residents of the island on Thursday. It has a capacity of just 800kW.
To make the Ninepin venture financially viable, Wind Prospect would need access to CLP's power grids, a source familiar with the proposal said. It would need CLP's coal-fired generation units as back-up in case of wind power malfunctions.
The project's viability would also hinge on resolving technical and financial issues, as the city was located in a typhoon belt and the cost of power production and infrastructure, as well as insurance on wind turbines, was expensive.
Another thorny issue was the likelihood that the venture would increase tariffs, the trade off for cleaner air, the source said.
A case in point is the tiny solar energy project on the government's offices at Wan Chai Tower.
Solar power costs $5-15 per kWh compared with the $1.17 per kWh Hongkong Electric charges customers, an engineer familiar with the Wan Chai project said.
'While the pressure for more [renewable energy] is intensifying, there is a big question mark how to make it commercially viable,' the engineer said.