Ahead of this month’s IUMI 2021 Annual Conference, taking place in Seoul, OWC’s Taiwan Manager and floating wind engineering specialist, Luis Gonzalez-Pinto, shares his thoughts with the IUMI Eye newsletter, on South Korea’s floating wind ambitions and the road ahead to development.
On 9 August the Sixth Assessment IPCC Report was released showing the significant, and faster than expected, consequences that human activities have caused to the climate. Rather than assuming the inevitability of worst-case scenarios, most Governments have set clear targets towards the decarbonisation of the economy. In the case of East Asia, decarbonisation targets have extended from Japan to Taiwan and to mainland China. But they’re not alone, with South Korea also setting bold targets for energy transition.
South Korea has established 2050 as the year to achieve carbon neutrality, and even more boldly, they have set a shorter-term target of achieving more than 30% of its electricity generation produced by renewable energy by 2030. This target includes 12 GW of offshore wind by 2030.
A pessimistic view could flag out that South Korea has a long history of not meeting their renewable targets. However, this time the latest offshore wind industry investments (including costly wind resource measurement campaigns prior to obtaining any permit) in Korea suggest otherwise.
South Korean offshore wind will become a pillar for the decarbonisation of its economy mainly thanks to two reasons. First, other technologies such as solar photovoltaic (PV) or onshore wind have limited options to be deployed at the scale required. Please note that current yearly electricity consumption in Korea is about 572,000 GWh. The second major reason is Korea’s powerful shipbuilding industry with capacity and capability to quickly develop a strong offshore wind supply chain.
While most territories have focused on bottom-fixed projects first before moving to floating, South Korea could attempt to become a leader in floating wind due to its shipbuilding industry and the fact that the country’s best wind resource is located in the deep waters of its East Coast.
To achieve this vision, there are some challenges such as the reduced wind resource when compared to the North Sea or the Taiwan strait or the pressure to acquire Korean branded wind turbines.
In this regard, Korea could draw benefit from the Japanese approach to wind turbine local sourcing. Their approach promotes manufacturing partnerships between OEMs and local industry (MHI- Vestas or GE-Toshiba), thereby developing a local supply chain while reducing the risk to developers with regard to the main project equipment.
Finally, regarding the wind resource limitation, this is definitely a challenge, similarly as it was for onshore wind to move to less windy sites. Nevertheless, if the Korean market can successfully overcome this challenge, it will unlock the potential for floating wind deployment to most coastal regions in the world where similar limitations on wind resources exist. This could also set Korea as a leading floating wind hub in East Asia.