South Korea Has Plan for $43 Billion Offshore Wind Farm

The South Korean government has announced a major part of the country’s effort to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. President Moon Jae-in on Feb. 5 attended a ceremony in which contracts were signed for a 48.5 trillion won ($43.2 billion) plan to build the world’s largest offshore wind farm by 2030, an installation that would have generation capacity of 8.2 GW.

The president last year began initiating his administration’s Green New Deal, designed to push the country toward carbon neutrality by 2050. Friday’s announcement, in the southwestern coastal town of Sinan, was attended by representatives of several of the utility, construction, and engineering companies involved in the project, including Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO), SK E&S, Hanwha Engineering & Construction Corp, Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction Co., CS Wind Corp, and Samkang M&T Co.

“With this project, we are accelerating the eco-friendly energy transition and moving more vigorously toward carbon neutrality,” Moon said Friday.

What would be the first large-scale commercial offshore wind project in the U.S. got a boost on Feb. 3 when the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) said it would resume an environmental review for the 800-MW Vineyard Wind project offshore Massachusetts. Project officials in December had withdrawn the installation’s application for federal approval, saying they needed more time for a technical review.

The move at the time was considered a way to bring the project under the regulatory purview of the incoming Biden administration, which is seen as favorable to offshore wind and renewable energy. The development groups had concerns officials with the outgoing Trump administration could block the project.

The U.S. offshore wind industry has suffered from fits and starts over the past few years due to regulatory and other issues.

Developers Financing Project

The companies involved with the South Korea project have contracted to provide about 98% of the financing for the wind farm, with the government providing the remaining 2%, according to administration officials. The Blue House, the South Korean equivalent of the U.S. White House, said the project would provide up to 5,600 jobs and help the country reach its goal of 16.5 GW of wind power generation capacity by 2030, up from the current 1.67 GW.

Officials in discussing the size of the project said the energy produced from the offshore installation would equal that of six nuclear reactors. Its size would dwarf that of the Hornsea 1 installation in the UK, currently the world’s largest offshore wind farm with 1.12 GW of generation capacity.

LNG and Coal Imports

Imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and coal at present are critical for South Korea’s energy mix. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said coal-fired power plants supplied about 40% of the country’s electricity in 2020, followed by gas-fired units, which provided about 26%.

Nuclear energy supplies about a quarter of the nation’s power, from 24 operating reactors, with renewables accounting for most of the remainder. Most of South Korea’s reactors are sited at two complexes in the densely populated southeastern part of the country, near the cities of Gyeongju, Ulsan, and Busan, which are major electricity demand centers and home to many heavy manufacturing plants.

The country’s energy plan calls from nuclear’s share of the generation mix to fall below 12% by 2030, with renewables producing about one-third of South Korea’s power by the end of the decade.

A Feb. 3 report from Rystad Energy, a Norway-based energy research group, said global offshore wind power capacity would increase by 37% this year, mostly due to new installations from China. The report said global offshore generation capacity rose 15% in 2020 despite the coronavirus pandemic, to a total 31.9 GW. The report said China accounted for 39% of that increase.

The report said China would account for 63% of a total 11.8 GW increase this year in offshore wind capacity.

Darrell Proctor is associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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