CLP and ally embark on city's largest wind project
Once used as an offshore firing range and later scarred by intensive fish trawling, a stretch of windswept water 8km east of Clear Water Bay peninsula close to the East Ninepin group of islands is set to become Hong Kong's largest commercial wind farm.
British renewable energy firm Wind Prospect and electricity utility ally CLP Holdings plan to secure approval to kick-start a feasibility study in the second quarter of this year on the wind project, which could begin operation in 2010.
Backed by an increasing demand for renewable energy in Hong Kong, the partnership yesterday submitted a detailed plan for the project, which would have 150 megawatts of generating capacity.
While this would account for only a fraction of CLP's output of 6,908MW and the number of households benefiting would be just 73,500 out of two million customers, the project would mark a leap forward in developing sustainable energy for the city.
According to the proposal obtained by the South China Morning Post, the alliance will spend one to two years on an environmental impact study on the 50 offshore wind turbines, each with a three to five MW capacity.
It will also investigate the viability of laying a submarine power cable to Tseung Kwan O to connect the wind farm to CLP's power grid serving Kowloon, the New Territories and Lantau.
Wind Prospect said the location was chosen because it had a long history of use as a firing range and had been heavily trawled for years. The waters off East Ninepin had also been used as a dumping ground for mud.
Some industry players doubted whether the alliance would be able to convince users to pay bigger bills.
'While wind is free, the cost of generating wind power and maintaining wind turbines, especially offshore, is high,' an electrical engineer said.
Wind Prospect argued overseas experience had shown that tariffs for offshore wind power were normally 1.5 to two times higher than that of fossil fuel-fired power.
To encourage investment in renewable energy sources, the government has proposed permitting power firms to earn a maximum return of 11 per cent on renewable power generation assets after the existing scheme of control regulatory mechanism ends in 2008.
The proposed return is high when compared with a return of as low as 7 per cent on investing in emission reduction facilities, the most efficient way to clear up Hong Kong's polluted skies.
Hongkong Electric Holdings, the city's other electricity supplier, started supplying wind power to Lamma in February. The project, the city's first commercial wind farm, is smaller, with a generating capacity of 800 kilowatts.