Powering Hong Kong with offshore wind

In the latest climate news, the NOAA recently reported that carbon dioxide levels are now more than 50% higher than in the pre-industrial era.[1]The race to transition from fossil fuels and decarbonise our energy use is more important than ever before as we hurtle towards climate catastrophe.

NOAA's CO2 measurement at Mauna Loa Observatory (Image source: The Guardian)

Luckily, we have an abundance of renewable energy reserves in the world. The Earth has more than enough wind resources alone to meet more than 10 times our energy demands today.[2]Wind farms in the ocean in particular is picking up interest in recent years. After all, offshore wind speeds are faster and more consistent than on land and you don’t need to deal with as much nimbyism ("not in my backyard”).

Triton Knoll, one of the world’s largest offshore wind farm, is slated to enter into operation this year to supply 857 MW of power.[3]In China, the 802 MW Jiangsu Qidong just went into operation in December 2021.[4]

Triton Knoll Offshore Windfarm off the coast of Lincolnshire (Image source: Triton Knoll)

While the cost of offshore wind energy is still higher than its onshore counterparts, the price is expected to come down with growing maturity, increasing competitiveness, technological advancements and more.[5]

Estimates of future levelized costs for wind energy (Image source: Berkeley Lab)

For example, advances in material design are enabling offshore wind turbines to capture more energy and better withstand the harsh marine environment. New innovations like floating wind turbines opened up the deep waters as viable locations for wind farms and reduced the environmental impact of installation. The digitalisation of the industry is also benefiting offshore wind energy production by anticipating failures and planning maintenance to increase the uptime of farms.

Digital applications and technologies in wind farm[6]

What about here in Hong Kong? As a coastal city, we have easy access to the ocean and the wealth of wind energy. Study findings believe that the offshore wind potential in Hong Kong can supply around one-third of the city’s electricity use.[7]

Spatial distribution of annual mean wind speed (Vm)[8]

But since the first wind turbine installed on Lamma Island in 2006, local wind energy development has not progressed much. In fact, in the latest white paper, "Hong Kong’s Climate Action Plan 2050”, the government only aims to increase the share of renewable energy in the fuel mix to 15% before 2050—a far less ambitious target than other cities.[9]

There is some good news however. Both HK Electric and CLP Power revealed plans to build offshore wind farms rated at 150 MW and 250 MW respectively.[10]This is, of course, far from what Hong Kong needs to decarbonise. In addition to realising the local wind potential, the government should work with the Greater Bay Area on offshore wind energy development. Bolder actions are needed if Hong Kong is to become carbon neutral by 2050.


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