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China well behind offshore wind power target

The Global Wind Energy Council has unveiled data showing China is failing to reach the target set for itself in development of offshore wind power capacity.

The country installed just 1 GW of offshore wind capacity last year, against a target of 5 GW. However officials say they would prefer to master the technology first, and added that the target is not mandatory.

The plan to install 10 GW by 2020 looks unlikely at this juncture, with lack of progress being blamed on technical problems and high costs.

“We hold a conservative view on the 2020 target,” given losses from the target miss, but are positive that China will step up investment, Wang Wen, spokeswoman of China’s second largest offshore wind turbine producer, Sinovel told Reuters.

“It is a global trend to go offshore, but it needs financial support to tackle technical hurdles,” she added. “The cost to build an offshore project is twice that of the onshore plant.”

“We don’t need a massive expansion, given the high risk level and time we need to gain experience and improve the technology,” Shi Lisha, deputy director of the renewable energy division under the National Environment Administration, said this week.

Global Wind Energy Council CEO Steve Sawyer told Power Engineering International that outside expertise was not the issue in helping China reach its targets.

“I think the problem is much more administrative and regulatory rather than technical so I’m not sure European companies could help much. There are many European companies there working in an advisory capacity already, such as DNV GL.”

To make investment into offshore wind more attractive, developers have called for higher subsidies, or so-called feed-in tariffs, but Shi poured cold water over such hopes, saying the current tariff of 0.85 yuan ($0.1287) per kilowatt-hour would likely remain for the next five years.

In more positive news China Three Gorges Corporation plans to build a factory to test turbines at 5 MW or more for the Fujian coastal province, China’s third largest offshore wind province after Jiangsu and Hebei.