Researchers at the Harvard John A Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and China’s Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China believe offshore wind could power much of the coastal area of China
Populous coastal provinces, including Guangdong and Jiangsu, consume about 80% of the country’s electricity but at the moment most of China’s wind capacity comes from land-based windfarms in areas such as Inner Mongolia, more than a thousand miles away from most major cities.
As previously reported by OWJ, coastal provinces already plan to build significant amounts of offshore wind. But turbine manufacturers are currently struggling to meet demand.
To calculate the capacity and cost of offshore wind in China, the researchers first identified the regions where offshore windfarms could be built, excluding shipping zones, environmentally protected areas and water depths exceeding 60 m. They calculated the wind speeds in those areas and estimated the capacity of turbines.
They found that the total potential wind power from windfarms built along the Chinese coast is 5.4 times larger than the current coastal demand for power.
Gilbert Butler professor of environmental studies at the school of engineering and applied sciences and senior author of the paper Michael McElroy said, “This is an important new contribution, recognition that China has abundant offshore wind potential that can be developed and brought to power-hungry coastal provinces at a cost that is competitive with existing coal-fired, polluting power plants.”
Graduate student at the department of earth and planetary science and first author of the paper Peter Sherman said, “We estimated offshore wind costs according to a range of values derived from recent offshore windfarm developments.
“It is clear now that, because of significant technological advances, the economics of offshore wind have changed such that it could be cost-competitive now with coal and nuclear power in China.”
The researchers estimated that if electricity prices are high, offshore wind could provide more than 1,000 terawatt-hours, or about 36% of all coastal energy demand. If electricity prices are low, it could provide more than 6,000 terawatt-hours, or 200% of total energy demand.
“Our research demonstrates the potential for cost-effective offshore wind to power coastal regions, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality in China,” said Professor McElroy.
The research was supported by the Harvard Global Institute, National Science Foundation China, and the State Key Laboratory on Smart Grid Protection and Operation Control. It is published in Science Advances.