Newswise — OFFSHORE WIND ENERGY PRESENTS A PROMISING FIX for the task of decarbonizing coastal China. China's coastal regions, while limited in size, house 76% of the populace; they are additionally accountable for 72% of the entire national energy usage and 70% of overall CO2 discharges. Shifting the coastal zones from fossil fuels is a primary hurdle for China's aim of attaining carbon neutrality by 2060, and offshore wind energy might hold the solution.

A recently published study in Nature Communications introduces a ground-up approach in examining the grid's ability to handle the fluctuations in renewable power and devising optimal strategies for offshore wind power investment. The fresh research, conducted by the Harvard-China Project on Energy, Economy, and Environment—a collaborative research initiative between the United States and China, housed at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences—and in partnership with Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST) in China, represents one of the pioneering analyses to explore the potential for integrating renewable energy at a provincial level through significant offshore investment.

China's investment in onshore wind power, which comprises more than 80% of the country's total wind commitments and around 30% of global wind commitments, faces challenges such as reduced output during winter and limited grid adaptability. Additionally, alternative zero-carbon energy sources like solar and nuclear power encounter constraints related to finances, geography, and safety. In contrast, offshore wind power presents a more advantageous and optimal solution as a renewable energy resource.

Michael B. McElroy, Gilbert Butler Professor of Environmental Studies and chair of the Harvard-China Project, highlights that the findings of the study suggest that China has the potential to access a minimum of 1000 GW of offshore wind capacity at a levelized cost lower than that of nuclear power units. He further emphasizes that the research indicates offshore wind investment levels could surpass the current government target, potentially exceeding double the initial goal.

In order to develop an effective strategy for the implementation of offshore wind power, the research team, led by Prof. Xinyu Chen from HUST, who is an alumnus of the Harvard-China Project, devised a comprehensive evaluation model for China's provinces. This model incorporates a detailed analysis of offshore wind resources and economic factors, takes into account the precise siting of wind farms while optimizing the delivery system, and simulates hourly power system demands. By doing so, it identifies the most favorable plans for provincial investments in offshore installations, transmission infrastructure, and storage facilities.

According to the modeled system, the offshore wind investment is projected to double by 2030 compared to the current levels. Furthermore, the system enhances the existing provincial deployment plans for offshore wind by redistributing investments from Guangdong to provinces like Jiangsu and Zhejiang. Consequently, this plan has the potential to increase the national penetration of renewable energy from 31.5% to 40% while maintaining a lower cost than anticipated in the current plan. Looking ahead to 2050, the offshore wind capacity in China could potentially reach an impressive 1500 GW.

Xinyang Guo, a visiting fellow with the Harvard-China Project, PhD candidate at HUST, and the primary author of the paper, emphasizes China's advantageous position in terms of abundant wind resources and favorable sea depth conditions for offshore wind power development. Guo highlights that the establishment of offshore wind farms in China would not only create the largest market for the global wind industry in the next decade but also serve as a crucial step for China in transitioning away from fossil fuel-dependent energy systems.

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