Breezy tidal flats offer green power on the doorstep of China's bustling seaboard.
China's first offshore wind farm, a 102-megawatt array that's set to come to full power this month in the Yangtze River delta near Shanghai, looks to be the start of something big. Chinese officials announced plans last month to request bids for three to four large-scale offshore wind power projects generating up to 1,000 megawatts total. Beijing-based energy consultancy Azure International predicts that China will install 514 megawatts of offshore wind over the next three to four years, and by 2020 will have invested $100 billion to install up to 30,000 megawatts. That's equal to all of the onshore wind farms currently installed in China, already the world's largest market for wind power. China's offshore winds are slower than Europe's because they cross Asia before striking out to sea, whereas the North Sea's winds travel an unimpeded transatlantic path. But 40 percent of China's population lives along the eastern seaboard. China is building a transmission supergrid to bring in hydroelectric, coal, and wind power from western China, but Meyer says leaders of coastal provinces see offshore development as a means of local investment. "China still has a very locally protectionist economy. There's an interest from provincial governments to support the coastal economy and jobs by supporting a wind industry in their backyard," says Sebastian Meyer, Azure's research director.