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The world’s largest wind farm may be the answer to South Korea’s zero dream

The fishing grounds where Jung Kwenbae’s kissers caught three generations of shrimp, buttercups and grains are set to become the world’s largest offshore wind farm. He is good at that.

“I was initially against the idea when the program was proposed because it would ruin our livelihoods,” said Jung, who leads a group of about 200 local fishermen launching nets from the southwestern tip of the Korean Peninsula. “But I realized that the project is part of the country’s transition to cleaner energy, which we need to reconcile, not fight.”

The 48.5 trillion won ($ 42.8 billion) wind farm, to be built on the country’s southwest coast over the next decade, will generate up to 8.2 gigawatts of electricity, one of the major project catalogs the government wants to implement with the private sector. sector support to meet the ambition to become carbon neutral by 2050.

This is a potential challenge. South Korea’s industrial boom has made it one of the top 10 energy consumers in the world since the 1960s, with per capita electricity consumption surpassing that of both Japan and Germany. And two-thirds of it comes from fossil fuels. Renewable energy accounted for only 6.5% of South Korea’s production in 2019, and the core is the balance.

“South Korea will have to supply almost all of its electricity from renewable energy sources if it is ever to achieve climate neutrality by 2050,” said Lee Sang -ong, president of the Korea Energy Agency’s New Renewable Energy Center. It is a “frightening problem.”

South Korea will have to supply almost all of its electricity from renewable energy sources if it ever intends to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. [It] It’s a scary issue. “
– Li Sangu, President of the New Energy Renewable Energy Center of the Korea Energy Agency

Many countries increase wind energy. The developers set a record last year for installing 96.3 gigawatt wind turbines worldwide, according to the BloombergNEF Clean Energy Research Group. That would be enough to support about 36 million American households. According to the International Energy Agency, at least 160 gigawatts of wind must be added annually by 2025 to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Following the promise of a “Green New Deal” last year, President Mooney’s’s Democratic Party has made a new push to transition, offering to receive more than 20% of its renewable energy by 2030. South Korea, it’s not just about curbing emissions. With the exception of a small amount of gas and coal, all of its fossil fuels are imported at a cost of $ 73 billion a year.

For solar, land, and wind farms, which are almost completely used with their conventional hydropower resources, such as unsuitable topography, the land looks to the sea to solve the problem. It already has the world’s largest tidal power plant on Lake Sihwa. But the government sees that one of its best prospects by 2030 is the use of 12 GW of offshore wind, currently below 0.2 GW.

The high seas have a more stable wind speed, allowing for the largest, most efficient turbines to be installed. By simply using the surface water near the shore, the world can get enough electricity to meet global demand. With floating turbines increasingly heading to the sea, wind energy could meet more than 10 times the world’s electricity demand by 2040, according to an IEA analysis.

Until now, Nordic countries such as the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Germany have dominated the offshore wind industry, thanks to generous government subsidies and unusually shallow North Sea waters. But that is beginning to change. Last year, China installed a record number of offshore wind turbines to become the world leader in total capacity. The administration of President Biden plans to rapidly increase wind farms off the east coast.

About 80 miles from the Korean island of Shina, where fisherman Jung lives, helmeted orange rescue jackets climb the 200-meter-high tower to the nation’s largest commercial offshore wind farm, 30 minutes by boat from the port of Buan. , The 60 MW capacity of the project is less than 1% of the proposed new wind farm in Shinan.

The complex in the Southwest Sea will expand to 2.46 GW after 2027, according to Korea Offshore Wind Power Corp., a special purpose company set up by six state-owned Korea Electric Power Corp. by other generators.

One of the main challenges in achieving these goals is the local opposition. A September BloombergNEF report predicted that South Korea could yield 4.6 GW to the government’s target wind flow, largely due to “strong opposition” from locals.

To alleviate the conflict with the community, the Shinan government adopted rules in 2018 that allow them to acquire a 30% stake in local renewable energy projects. It will come as a surprise to the residents of the six islands of the archipelago this month, when last year’s profits will be distributed from two solar stations.

Renewable energy will be a stable source of income for the people of Shinan, who are mostly 70-80 years old. “I would not be surprised if Shinan became the most secure island in the country.”
– Kim Jong Un, a 63-year-old farmer representing a group of locals.

“Renewable energy will be a sustainable source of income for Shinan residents, who are mostly 70-80 years old,” said Kim Jong Un, a 63-year-old farmer who represents a group of locals. “I would not be surprised if Sinan becomes the most secure island in the country.”

There are other challenges. Wind energy in South Korea currently costs about $ 220 per megawatt hour, according to IHS Markit, one of the highest rates in the world.

“You need wind all day to run at 13 meters per second at 8.2 gigawatts, which is impossible,” said Seo Han Gyun, a professor in the Department of Nuclear Engineering at Seoul National University. “The economics of these wind turbines do not make sense; in the end, the rising price falls on individuals.”

South Korea’s wind ambitions also rely on the sustained efforts of dozens of private companies. For example, the Shinan wind project consists of about 20 separate enterprises, including SK E&S Co. w Hanwha Engineering & Construction: This means that plans can be canceled or changed as each company goes through a long process of obtaining permits and calculating costs.

To speed up the installation, a “one-stop shop” bill will be proposed in the first half of this year to allow the government to explore potential offshore sites and obtain the required permits, said Eun Sunyuk, director of renewable energy at the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy.

One answer may be to grow floating plants that can be more clogged than fixed turbines confined to surface water, says Lynn of the Korea Energy Agency. A number of such projects are planned by companies, including Korea National Oil Corp. և Equinor ASA, which aims to jointly build a 200-megawatt complex in the Arctic Sea near Ulsan.

For Jung, sitting in his Mokpo office, the country’s interest in offshore winds has led him to see the transfer of energy as an opportunity rather than the end of his career.

“None of us knows the sea here. “I’m sure there will be a lot of work we can do,” Jung said. “If you can not turn the tide, it is better to hug the stream.”

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