Taiwan takes first steps offshore

TAIWAN: A risk assessment outlining how Taiwan might proceed with the development of offshore wind farms despite risks such as typhoons and earthquakes has been produced by global marine engineering consultancy BMT Group, in conjunction with independent developer Wind Prospect

The study follows on from the Taiwanese government's stated intention to promote offshore wind energy. It aims to both create a local wind industry supply chain and generate indigenous low-carbon electricity for the island state, which is currently dependent on energy imports.

Taiwan's government wants renewable energy generation to rise from a hydro-dominated 8% in 2010 to 16% by 2025.

BMT's report – earmarked for the government and its development agencies - reviews key hazards associated with wind project development in the region. It uses a risk management framework to help developers recognise and mitigate the key risks, covering everything from extreme weather to potential conflicts with air-defence radar as well as biodiversity impacts on birds and the Chinese White dolphin.

"We have started with the premise that offshore wind is not onshore plus water," said Richard Colwill, managing director of Hong Kong-based BMT Asia Pacific. "Offshore presents a whole new set of risks that have to be addressed, and developers in Taiwan have little experience in this area. The risk framework developed in the project is intended to highlight, and assist management with, the new risks to development outside their current experience."

Learning from Europe

The report draws on the experience of, and mistakes made by, European offshore developers. "There isn't an Asian experience base in offshore wind yet," said Colwill, acknowledging that there has been some offshore development in the Shanghai area of China, outside the principal typhoon belt, and South Korea has also begun developing its offshore wind sector.

Taiwan is looking to locate its offshore wind power on the continental shelf to the east of the island of Formosa. "The west is exposed to massive waves, with the continental shelf dropping away metres from the shoreline," explained Colwill. Two government-subsidised pilot studies will begin shortly, with developers putting proposals forward for installation of two full-scale turbines each, not less than 3MW. These should be in the water before 2015. State electricity company Taipower is also looking to undertake its own project development.

Colwill believes that mainland China will have the strongest, most developed offshore wind energy expertise in the region - and is working to export this - while the Asia-Pacific offshore market will develop on a nationalistic basis. "Countries such as Taiwan, South Korea and Japan are all seeking to develop their own manufacturing and supply chain," he said. "We are unlikely to see the multinational European supply and development model here."

Taiwan is already developing a successful solar PV supply chain, with a 2GW solar target for 2025, and wants to emulate this approach for the wind sector.

BMT has been active elsewhere in Asia providing support for developers in the planning and de-risking of offshore wind projects in Hong Kong, where two offshore wind farms with 100MW and 200MW capacity are being developed.