Where are the world's largest offshore wind farms?

We have also jointly facilitated projects and in-depth discussions on many technical areas, including: the installation, operation and maintenance of deep-far-sea fixed and floating offshore wind projects; energy storage design and deployment; cross-provincial HVDC (high-voltage, direct current) transmission; hydrogen generation, deployment and use-cases; carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS) projects; and smart grids and grid flexibility.

This has supported sustained commercial collaboration. The UK government directly supported UK companies to provide an estimated £1.2 billion in renewable energy exports to over thirty projects within China since 2017. We have also supported UK-China renewable energy partnerships around the world. In 2019, the UK Department for International Trade and China’s NDRC signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in third countries, supporting partnership on sustainable, low-carbon projects built to high international standards. 

For example, we have worked with China’s Shanghai Electric and UK-headquartered Lloyds Register on the ongoing construction of Dubai’s flagship 700MW Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) Park. UK export credit agency UK Export Finance continues to offer financing for renewable energy projects jointly delivered by UK and Chinese partners internationally. 

Offshore Wind

Investment trends to watch out for in 2022: Offshore wind manufacturing
In December 2021, the Department for International Trade signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Ming Yang Smart Energy Group, providing our support for Ming Yang’s ambition to establish a turbine blade factory, and conceivably, a turbine assembly factory in the UK. Described by UK Trade Commissioner to China John Edwards as “game-changing,” it marks an exciting development in terms of Chinese participation in the UK wind supply chain.

Chinese investment into offshore wind manufacturing builds on an ongoing trend of investment into the UK renewable energy sector over the past ten years. Previously, the majority of Chinese investment has been equity investment into UK offshore wind projects, and, more recently, the development of energy storage projects. For example, the UK Government supported China’s State Development & Investment Corporation (SDIC) to invest in the UK’s 588MW Beatrice offshore wind project and 1GW Inch Cape offshore wind project in 2016, 50MW Afton onshore wind project in 2020 and 72MW Benbrack onshore wind farm in 2021. 

In terms of energy storage, the UK has worked with Huaneng to develop Europe’s biggest lithium-battery storage plant in Minety, England, using Sungrow technology, which was connected to the grid in 2021. And already this year, in February 2022, Trina Storage delivered its first energy storage project in the UK, a 50MW battery facility in the east of England. There are many current opportunities within the UK’s wider low-carbon sector that will be of interest to suitable investors (some online here).

In 2022, we expect further investment into the UK’s offshore wind and lithium-ion battery manufacturing capability. Crucially, the UK has the biggest offshore wind pipeline in Europe and is working with developers to maximise the percentage of UK-based manufacturing and services, with an expectation of 60% local content. Manufacturers like Ming Yang will be positioned to take advantage of this. They join other international investors, including American-firm General Electric and South Korean-firm SeAH, who also announced plans to establish UK factories in 2021.

Thinking beyond 2022: strategic collaboration on floating offshore wind?
Within the renewable energy industry, fixed-bottom offshore wind is already crucial to both the UK and China. We have the world’s two largest offshore wind industries by operational capacity, and both have significant pipelines for future capacity. However, many of the available near-to-shore sites in shallow waters (required for fixed-bottom turbines) are being used up. Floating offshore wind is the next frontier of technology development, with a huge potential to expand. 

Floating wind is an area where the UK can share its experience with China. The world’s first two commercial floating offshore wind farms, Hywind and Kincardine, were developed in the UK, with Hywind in operation since 2017. It has been fantastic to see China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) partnering with the UK’s Flotation Energy to co-develop Green Volt, a floating offshore wind project which will be used to electrify the Buzzard oil rig in Scotland. Green Volt is expected to be the biggest floating project in the world once operational in 2026.

The UK has the biggest offshore wind pipeline in Europe and would welcome Chinese engineering and manufacturing for floating turbines and foundations in our offshore wind projects

Partnership with the UK could both help China to scale its floating offshore wind capacity and help the UK to build our supply chain capability. Within China, UK and Chinese developers could work together on projects (with UK developers taking minority stakes). This could help to build on the pioneering work of China Three Gorges and MingYang, who launched China’s first floating offshore wind turbine in Yangjiang in 2021, using Chinese-engineered components. 

The UK would welcome Chinese engineering and manufacturing for floating turbines and foundations in our offshore wind projects, clusters and ports. The UK government ring fenced £24 million in funding per year for floating offshore wind via the CfD scheme in September 2021. Investment in UK-based floating wind manufacturing would give Chinese companies a great basis for bidding into our 8.8GW floating wind pipeline. 

As the world’s two leading offshore wind markets, we should lead by example. We can create mutually acceptable standards for the technology and work together to scale the floating offshore wind industry. There is no solution to climate change without China. May the ferocity of the tiger guide us to develop the renewable energy market with vigour in 2022!