By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
China and the UK have teamed up to develop the next generation of offshore wind power capacity, with a focus on identifying the best locations for the new installations and making them more resilient to harsh weather conditions including typhoons and earthquakes.
The UK’s Natural Environment Research Council said research teams from the two countries will work together on five projects, to receive funding from the Joint UK-China Renewable Energy program as well as financial support from NERC and the National Natural Science Foundation of China.
The UK and China are among the leaders in renewable energy globally, and their new tie-up will solidify their position at the top of the clean-energy-adopters list. The UK already has the largest offshore wind capacity in Europe, and last year a quarter of all electricity generation came from renewables.
China last year installed 23.4 GW of new wind capacity, which accounted for over 40 percent of the global total of newbuilds for that year. By 2030, wind power could supply 26 percent of the country’s projected electricity demand.
Both countries seem eager to continue expanding their wind power strength. In the UK, offshore wind power costs have fallen so much that the energy the wind farms in the sea produce is now cheaper than nuclear energy.
That’s according to the latest auction for subsidies, organized by the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy. In these auctions, the bidders with the lowest offers are the winners. In the latest one, the BBC reports, there were bidders offering to build wind farms with subsidies as low as US$75.83 (57.50 pounds) per megawatt hour. That’s almost twice as cheap as the subsidy for a megawatt hour of new nuclear power, to come on stream in 2022-2023.
China, meanwhile, is working on what will be the biggest offshore wind farm in the world: the 800 MW Yancheng project, to start operating next year. The world’s largest investor in renewable energy plans to have 210 GW of installed wind power capacity connected to the grid by 2020. Of this, the majority will be onshore wind farms, with offshore constituting just 5 GW of the total. By 2026, however, offshore wind capacity should hit 26 GW.
What’s more, Beijing is hoping to scrap wind power subsidies over the next three years.
Earlier this month, the National Energy Administration approved the construction of the first batch of wind farms that will produce electricity at costs equal to that of a coal plant. Although the batch is small, including 13 farms with a combined capacity of 707 MW, it is a step in a much-desired direction.
The UK is far from scrapping wind power subsidies—these will run for 15 years for new projects—but they will continue to fall dramatically, according to experts. In fact, wind energy could become an export commodity as declining costs of construction combine with a weaker pound after the finalization of Brexit.
There is just one problem yet to be resolved in a sustainable manner. This problem is the intermittent nature of wind—and solar—power generation, which is costing billions in wasted electricity. It’s good for the UK and China, then, that a lot of work is being put into new and increasingly reliable energy storage solutions.