Commission to study wind resources
China's economically exploitable offshore wind resources may be much smaller than widely believed and large-scale exploitation may be a decade away, according to industry experts.
It is believed that offshore China has 750,000 megawatts of wind resources - three times that of onshore wind resources - but Li Junfeng, a deputy director at National Development and Reform Commission's energy research, said such an estimate was unreliable.
'The figures are quite misleading and should only be used as a reference because they were derived by modifying data from England,' Mr Li told an energy forum. 'England is an island, but China is not.'
He said only a narrow strip of coastal region of some 60,000 square kilometres had economically-exploitable resources, compared with 600,000 square kilometres of the wind-rich Xinjiang, Heilongjiang and Inner Mongolia regions.
Mr Li said the commission planned to set up several thousand recorders by 2010 to collect wind data. 'It could well be the case that our exploitable offshore wind resources are several times smaller than our onshore resources,' he said. Industry executives said substantially higher equipment costs may discourage investments despite utilisation hours of offshore wind farms being typically longer.
'Offshore wind projects will happen in China; there will be some promotion projects. But why build offshore if they are cheaper onshore,' said Thorbjorn Rasmussen, president of Denmark-based wind turbine maker Vestas Asia Pacific.
'In the next five to seven years, there may be two to three projects but it may take 10 years for any sustainable development.'
Mr Li said construction costs of offshore wind farms could be double those of onshore ones, as most of China's coastal areas are exposed to destructive typhoons.
Based on data from previous trials, offshore projects may need to charge tariffs of 90 fen to one yuan per kilowatt-hour to be attractive for investors, 20 to 30 fen higher than those onshore.