Chinese authority changes the management style of offshore wind power project approvalBY RICHARD JUN LI
The National Energy Bureau (NEB) recently approved two offshore wind power projects with an aggregate capacity of 246 MW in Guangdong province in Southern China. The two projects are owned by China Southern Power Grid (CSG) and Guangdong Yudean Group, respectively.
CSG’s project is located near Zhuhai city, with a total investment of RMB 4.4 billion and a planned capacity of 198 MW. Yudean’s project is located near Zhanjiang city, with a planned capacity of 48 MW.
These are the first approvals granted since the first round of bidding for offshore wind power concession in October 2010. In the previous bidding, four companies – namely China Longyuan Power, Huaneng Renewable Corporation, Shandong Luneng Group, and China Power Investment Corporation – won the four offshore wind projects located in Jiangsu province with an aggregate capacity of around 1,000 MW.
Prior to the new approvals, the market participants expected that a second round of bidding would occur in the second half of 2012.
However, the approvals indicate that the authority may not conduct bidding again and directly approve project applications instead.
China's oceans are administered by the State Ocean Administration (SOA), creating additional barriers for the four initial bid winners. Despite obtaining NEB approval, some of the project locations had already been planned by the SOA for other purposes, such as rare animal protection and tourism.
The information barrier between the two authorities actually caused significant delays for the wind power projects, an issue that is likely familiar to those following solar thermal deployment in the United States.
The change of project approval processes may effectively accelerate the development of offshore wind power in China, as companies can check the status of the project area with the SOA before they submit the application to NEB.
According to the NEB’s plan for offshore wind power, China aims to install 5,000 MW of offshore wind power capacity by the end of 2015, with plans to reach 30,000 MW by the end of 2020. If this holds up, it will generate an offshore wind power market of over RMB 100 billion in the next 10 years.
There is little doubt that foreign entities are increasingly struggling to access major wind projects in China, but the size of the opportunity and the increased technical requirements of offshore wind installations may reopen the doors.