With Wind and Wave, Asia Leads the Way

An alternative energy revolution is spreading through the world - with some $38 billion invested worldwide in renewable resource development in 2005

Published: 05-Jan-2007

Globally, alternative sources will meet future energy needs and Asia is already leading the way. 
 
An alternative energy revolution is spreading through the world — with some $38 billion invested worldwide in renewable resource development in 2005, it can’t be called anything else — and Asia is very much in the vanguard, with two countries, China and South Korea, leading the way. 
 
China alone accounted for $6 billion of the total global commitment. Armed with a renewable energy law that came into force a year ago, it expects at least 16 per cent of its total energy supply to come from renewables, against 7 per cent in 2005. The law requires all major power companies to source at least 5 per cent of their total generation capacity from renewables by 2010. 
 
While solar and biogas resources have played an important role, it’s the wind and the ocean that are going to shape China’s alternative energy future. Having set up 61 wind power plants, which have a combined capacity of 1,260 MW but meet only 0.5 per cent of the country’s total potential energy supply, China is now preparing to farm the wind in a big way. One company alone, Longyuan Electric Power, has announced plans to raise its wind power capacity from 416 MW now to 3,000 MW by 2010 and 7,000 MW by 2020. By that time, the country’s total wind power capacity is expected to reach 30,000 MW. 
 
Work is on for a 100 MW wind farm on Nan’ao Island in Guangdong province, about 200 miles northeast of Hong Kong. Shanghai authorities are planning to build a large offshore wind farm in the East China Sea, to supply some 250 million kWh to the city’s grid annually. A 100 MW wind farm is likely to be completed for Beijing by 2008. Inner Mongolia, which already has the biggest concentration of wind power farms in the country, is going to have a 300 MW new facility by 2012. In Dongtai, Jiangsu province, a wind farm capable of producing 200 MW of power is expected to be completed within a year from now. But all eyes are set on Rudong county, in the same province, where a huge new complex of 430 turbines having a combined planned capacity of 850 MW is coming up. Combined with its two other facilities, together producing 250 MW, Rudong’s total capacity of 1,100 MW will make it the largest wind power plant in the world. 
 
Ocean energy, which involves harnessing tides, waves and marine currents, is another area China is closely looking at. According to experts, only 0.2 per cent of the available marine potential could meet the energy needs of the entire world. 
 
So far, China has set up eight tidal power stations, mostly experimental in nature and with only 6.1 MW of total generating capacity. But it’s the success of these plants that has now sparked a whole lot of new interest in this emerging technology. A UK-based company, Tidal Electric, is currently carrying out a feasibility study for a 300 MW tidal power project near the mouth of the Yalu River in Liaoning province. When fully realised, the proposed plant would be even bigger than the 254 MW Sihwa Lake tidal energy project, currently the world’s biggest, under construction in South Korea. 
 
Like China, South Korea too is exploring its renewable energy future with particular vigour. Heavily dependent on imported energy — a total of $66.7 billion was spent on energy imports in 2005, which was 22.1 per cent of its annual import bill — and in the face of a rapidly growing economy, the country is forced to explore as much for offshore gas reserves as for new and renewable energy. The government’s immediate goal is to increase the share of renewables in the total energy mix from 2.28 per cent now to at least 5 per cent by 2011. Its ultimate aim is to replace fossil fuel with hydrogen power by 2040. 
 
Jeju Island is now a virtual testing ground for South Korea’s wind farming initiatives. Hybrid gasoline-electric cars are to be mass-produced in the country from 2010, when all buses in Seoul must run on compressed natural gas. This year, 14 hydrogen fuel-cell-powered cars will be introduced on a pilot basis. Hydrogen filling stations have been established already in Inchon and Taejon and will soon be in Seoul and Yongin. 
 
But it’s South Korea’s fascination with ocean energy that has grabbed the world’s attention. The Sihwa Lake project, on Inchon Bay and close to Ansan City, is being developed by Korea Water Resources Corporation and likely to be ready in 2009. Ten bulb-type turbines, 25.4 MW each, will be installed along a 12.4 km sea wall that separates the lake from the sea. These will be powered by the movement of water between the sea and the lake, and the electricity generated in the process, it is claimed, would be enough to meet the entire needs of Ansan, a city of 500,000 people.

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