China’s Floating Offshore Wind Outlook

This article is originally published on 2020/05/20; modified and updated on 2020/06/02

Floating offshore wind in China looked like a distant plan for the industry just two-three years ago. But today, in 2020, the scenario of a floating turbine installed in Chinese coastline has no longer far-fetch, as offshore wind has quickly become one of the most attractive energy business in the country. 

We might see the seemingly distant plans gradually turn to reality soon, as more projects move ahead, and more companies involve in floating development. 

In a series pieces, Energy Iceberg plans to summarize and analyze China’s floating offshore wind outlook, with the first section detailing current project development and milestone events. 

Floating Offshore Wind Projects in China: Status Quo

Currently, there are seven floating projects under development in China. But the project development speed and the technical perspectives are profoundly different. Two projects are ahead and aiming to complete around 2021.

Besides the five projects, more tech companies have emerged and shown interests or progress in providing floating solutions. We will provide a breakdown of the companies strategy and regional market potentials in follow-up pieces. 

Shanghai Deep & Far Sea Demonstration: “the First”

The project is initiated by the Shanghai government—the municipal development and reform commission (DRC). Shanghai Science and Technology Committee (STCSM) has provided funding for the project R&D. 

In 2016, a ten party consortium was formed for the project.

The planned floating units are most likely to be installed in the eastern waters off Hengsha Island, Chongming district of Shanghai. In 2018, the SGEEC conducted initial site selection and zoned into five offshore areas as potential options. 

The developer had been considering two development plans, which are of total 850MW capacity in three zones and of 2.8GW installation built in two offshore zones. Either way, the developer would strive to put up 2-5 pilot turbines at first. 

The construction contractor, CCCC Third Harbon, has looked into TLP and Semi-Submersible as the floating solutions, but it concluded in 2018 to focus on TLP. 

However, given a relatively shallow water depth of the site, at around 40 meters, the TLP solution also imposes a major challenge for the project development.

CTG/MYSE Yangjiang Pilot: Moving Ahead Fast

The local government of Guangdong province, the most ambitious region for offshore wind development, kicked off the project at 2018, with provincial funding allocated for the R&D. 

Guangdong-based turbine manufacturer Ming Yang (or MYSE) has assumed a significant role in the project. Last year, MYSE revealed more information during the 2019 China Offshore Wind Summit held in Yangjiang. The firm refers to the project as “the first national floating demonstration” and said construction could start as early as 2021.

The developer of the project is China Three Gorges (CTG), which will provide the deep water sites of it Yangxi Shapa Offshore Wind Complex for the demo.

It is worth to note that CTG has held a tender in May 2020 to solicit engineering and construction contractors to design, test, and install the floater. The move marks the project has been moving ahead at a much faster speed than its peers. 

[More Background Information Regarding China Three Gorges]

CSIC Zhanjiang Pilot: Backed by National Funding

China Shipbuilding Industry Corp (CSIC), the country’s ship making giant, has entered into an agreement in 2018 with the local government of Zhanjiang—another Guangdong city—to develop another floating pilot project in the southern province. 

On the same year, the firm won the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology’s (MIIT’s) endorsement on the project. The latter has provided national funding for the floater research. 

CSIC owns in-house capacity both in floating installation design and offshore turbine manufacturing. The firm’s research powerhouse 702 Institute has completed an initial three-legged semi-submersible floater design. At the same time, the domestic top-5 turbine making affiliate CSIC Haizhuang is a leading party in the pilot project and will supply the floating 5.5MW turbine.

The firm has selected a site of 50-meters water depth in the water off Xuwen city, as the reserved spot for the pilot. 

Nari Island Floating Offshore Sites: A “Black Horse”

Formerly lesser-known, China Longyuan’s Nanri Island floating pilot in Fujian province is moving ahead fast. It may kick off construction as early as 2021.

Nanri Island Offshore Wind Farm is a fixed-bottomed project developed by Longyuan since 2017. But it had previously reserved spots for floating turbines. The growing challenges in constructing fixed-bottom units in Fujian’s offshore formation may have pushed the developer to speed up its floating agenda.

Recently, sources suggest a floating R&D has been taken off. The project has been taken part by engineer HydroChina Huadong Engineering Corp (Ecidi), shipbuilder CIMC Raffles, and turbine maker Shanghai Electric.

Two conceptual integrated designs based on SGRE’s 4MW turbine have been delivered, of which one combined floating foundation and marine aquafarming functions.

Tonex Demos in Fujian & Shandong: A Mystery

A little known private turbine maker Tonex is leading two floating pilots in China—one at Fujian and the other off the coast of Shandong province. But the future perspectives of both projects remain mysteries. 

As a former solar company, Tonex said it entered into the wind market “by chance” and started to develop vertical axis wind turbines (VAWT). The firm in 2017 announced to have acquired French floating wind specialist Nénuphar—despite a year later the French firm entered liquidation and ended its VAWT research. 

Tonex, however, pushed through a floating turbine plant at Pingtan city of Fujian, claimed with investment from State Power Investment Corp. In 2017 the firm said that it expected to deliver the prototype 6MW turbine by 2018. However, the plan did not materialize. 

Pingtan government did pre-approved the floating offshore demonstration project led by Tonex, back at 2018. But as the turbine prototype has not yet established, the demo plan has reported no progress. 

Despite the lack of progress in Fujian, the firm set off another venture in Shandong province, a nascent offshore wind market in China. 

Recently, in 2020, the turbine maker unleashed an even more ambitious plan at Qingdao city—in a business set up identical to its Fujian venture, with Tonex leading the developments of both a turbine making facility and the offshore pilot project. 

But the new ambition is jaw-dropping. The planned turbine capacity now ballooned to 10MW. The total power capacity of the pilot will be of 2GW—an unheard-of size even in the Chinese wind market. On top of the aggressive plan, the mysterious wind player plans to also include hydrogen production facility in the project, with Tonex’ sister companies providing gas cylinders. 

The project developer selects waters off Xiaoguan island as the potential site. But the realization of all its promises seems a challenging job.  

Two Pipeline Projects

Separately, there are two other floating wind plans revealed by local governments. But so far, neither has begun to take off serious development. Guangdong government has reserved a project in Shantou for a floating solution. And Shandong government has voiced support for a floating demonstration off Penglai, of Yantai city.

Chinese Turbine OEMs Active in Floating Designs

CSIC Haizhuang 

Haizhuang, headquartered in Chongqing, is the turbine making affiliate of world’s largest shipbuilder CSIC, which has been merged with China State Shipbuilding Co late last year to form a new CSSC group. The new conglomerate has a dominant position in China’s marine engineering and shipbuilding market. 

Backed by its stronger-than-ever mother firm, CSIC Haizhuang has been raising from a lesser-known player to a top-5 offshore wind OEM in the market in just about 2-3 years time. 

CSIC secured a spot in the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology’s (MIIT’s) “high-tech civil shipbuilding R&D” project in 2018. With the national funding,  several CSIC subsidiaries including Haizhuang, 702 Institute, and CSDC are carrying out the floating turbine and floater research.  

The group is also working with Elofi, now part of Shell, for the R&D. 

Goldwind 

As the dominant player of China’s wind market for over a decade, Goldwind kicked off frontier research of floating turbine design back at 2013, backed by funding from Ministry of Science and Technology under the National “863” program, or the State High-Tech Development Plan. 

The OEM design a semi-submersible platform based on its 6MW project and conducted a pool-side test. But back then, the offshore wind scene in China was still nascent. The research did not move forward to the next stage. 

Ming Yang Smart Energy (MYSE) 

The Guangdong-based Ming Yang has sailed through some difficult time and “bounced back” in the recent 2-3 years, thanks to Guangdong province’s heated offshore wind market. 

The firm has been extraordinarily active in the capital market last year, completing an IPO and then raising capital three more times. The sufficient funding facilitates its steps in offshore wind turbine R&Ds, including both floating turbine and the double-digit turbine developments. 

In 2018, the Guangdong government decided to support China Three Gorges (CTG), MYSE, and other local companies to develop a floating wind demonstration. Initially, the pilot aims to deliver a “3MW or larger” floating prototype, which has since ballooned to 5.5MW. 

Last month (2020/05) CTG released a tender for contractors to build a semi-submersible foundation for the pilot turbine. As the tender suggests, CTG aims to complete the floating installation by 2021. 

Shanghai Electric Wind Company (SEW) 

Tthe leader in China’s offshore wind market, Shanghai Electric Wind Group (SEW) has taken part in the 10-party consortium for Shanghai city’s “Deep and Far Sea Wind” demonstration project, in which SEW is the turbine designer and supplier. 

Meanwhile, SEW also plays a role in a lesser-known potential floating wind project developed by China Longyuan its Nanri Island offshore wind farm, off Fujian coast. The fixed-bottomed wind farm has allegedly reserved sites for testing floating turbines. 

The floating turbine is based on the SGRE-licensed 4MW turbine. The project allegedly sets to start in 2021.  

Sinovel 

A former champion and the first to test offshore wind waters, Sinovel has jointed Shanghai’s floating demo as well—as another OEM in the project, next to SEW. 

However, the Liaoning-based wind OEM has been battling with lawsuits and financial issues, recently removed from the China stock market mainboard. Given its business downfall, the firm’s capacity in floating research is, at the moment, doubtful. 

United Power

United Power has lost ground in the domestic wind market in recent year, despite now the affiliate of the world’s largest power utilities China Energy Investment Corp. It has a limited share of the offshore wind market. 

Recently the firm launched a tender to solicit research partner to carry out floating turbine design. The result of the effort remains to be seen, but certainly a positive step forward. 

XEMC Wind

XEMC Wind has been one of the first to look into floating turbine design, also winning the “863” program funding in 2013 next to Goldwind. The firm then delivered a conceptual concrete semi-submersible design. However, there was no further effort to commercialize that research. 

Once a world top-5 player, XEMC Wind’s mother firm is facing some bitter financial issue and looking for a buyer of the wind manufacturing unit. The fate of its floating research is, therefore, very uncertain. 

Engineering Companies Involved in Floating Wind Research

There are limited energy engineering firms in China with offshore experience and qualifications. And, thus, a handful of players dominate the market, who are also the leading forces of floating technology development in China. 

HydroChina Huadong Engineering Corp (Ecidi) 

Ecidi was the earliest in offering Chinese offshore wind engineering service and often considered the most experienced in the field. The firm is part of HydroChina, one of the “Big-Two” energy and electricity engineering group in the country. 

Ecidi is most active in Jiangsu province, and quickly expanded its footprints in Zhejiang, Fujiang, and Shandong in recent years. It is, therefore, not surprising to see its involvement in the (potential) Nanri Island floating pilot project in Fujian.  

Shanghai Investigation, Design & Research Institute (SIDRI)

The affiliate of China Three Gorges (CTG) has a more substantial presence than its peers in floating wind farm design. 

Back in 2016, the Shanghai-based firm has assumed a leading role in China’s first floating demonstration project, the “Shanghai Deep and Far Sea” offshore wind R&D.

It is recently involved in CTG’s Yangxi Shapa Floating Wind Pilot project, which will embark Ming Yang’s turbine. 

Guangdong Electricity Power Design Institute (GEDI)

The engineering powerhouse in Guangdong is now part of China Energy Engineering Group (CEEC), the other “Big Two” and a competitor of HydroChina. 

Given its position in Guangdong energy market, GEDI is the designer of the province’s offshore wind development plan and China’s first set of offshore wind engineering standards, despite its stepping into the market relatively recently. 

The firm began to look into floating solution research since2014, then working with Shanghai Jiaotong University to develop a prototype floater. Since 2018, the firm appears to invest in much more effort, including cooperating with Norwegian University of Science and Technology and carrying out a semi-submersible technology based on 10MW turbine.  

Given Guangdong province has reserved a massive 57GW “deep water sites” for future offshore wind growth, GEDI is likely to play an essential role in China’s raising floating wind scene. 

[More Information on the construction and engineering companies mentioned– Sidri, and GEDI]

Energy Iceberg will soon release a full-fledged report on China’s floating offshore wind market. Sign up to pre-register your interest! [Content Table as Following]

  • all floating projects’ status (tech specs, capacity, progress)
  • 20 key companies (developers, shipbuilders, OEMs, designers) actives and strategy
  • central and local policy analysis
  • regional market potential outlook. 

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