China is gearing up to expand its floating wind power fleet almost one-hundred-fold in the next five years, with its sole project so far – a single unit pilot launched in 2021 – being seen as a seed-crystal for some 477MW of moored plant coming into operation off the country by 2026, according to latest calculus from Westwood Energy.

The current pipeline of demonstrator projects off the coast of the Asian superpower, which recently overtook the UK as the world’s largest bottom-fixed offshore wind play, points toward it being the fifth biggest market globally for floating wind capacity, behind the UK (25%), South Korea (20%), Spain (19%) and Italy (14%), said the UK analyst.

“Mainland China is making strides in floating wind, which includes increasing the number of demonstrations, commercialising floating wind projects and increasing the turbine rating for floating wind projects. Will Mainland China dominate in floating wind like it has for fixed-bottom wind? That is indeed a possibility,” said Ruth Chen, senior analyst for offshore wind.

“With this rapid expansion in fixed-bottom offshore wind development, it’s no wonder that Mainland China is also fast-tracking its development in floating wind.”

The Westwood database counts eight projects – all bar one of which is demonstration-scale – that will be commissioned between 2021-2026, joining the country’ flagship CTG Yangxi Shapa in operation:

  • 7.25MW CNOOC Deep Sea Floating
  • 6.2MW CSSC Haizhuang Fu Yao
  • 4MW Longyuan Putian Nanri Island
  • 15MW Nezzy 2 Demo
  • 25MW Shanghai Deep & Far Sea Demo
  • 10MW Wenzhou Goldwind

Half of these arrays will be off the coast of Guangdong province. There is also one commercial-scale project, the 200MW Hainan PFS-1 Wanning Southeast, expected online in this time-frame.

China’s first floating wind pilot, a MingYang MySE5.5MW turbine mated with a Wison steel semisub, was installed last year as part of the China Three Gorges’ Yangxi West Shapa phase 3, a 400MW project being built predominantly around monopile-based machines off Yangjiang.

The typhoon-proof unit being trialled at the CTG site, which is in some 30 metres of water, will not only test the concept but also the viability of floating wind power production units in what is generally thought-of being ‘too shallow’ for a traditionally deepwater technology.

Chen told Recharge: “Half of projects highlighted by us have a water depth of less than 70 metres which categorises as ‘shallow water’. China has the technology to produce shallow water floating wind [turbine concepts] which is an incentive to accelerate the country’s ambition [in the offshore wind sector] in the next decade.

“From the language from some of the provincial policies... I get the sense they are on a mission to develop their technology for deepwater floating wind as well. But certainly, the next step would be to commercialising shallow water floating wind which we haven't seen announced plans [for] yet.”

Westwood forecasts 3.6GW of floating wind to be online globally by 2026.

The Global Wind Energy Council last year said it expected 16.5GW of floating turbines to be in the water by 2030, a dramatic increase from the 6.5GW it was anticipating only a year ago, with most of that growth coming in the second half of the decade when the sector.

· UPDATES calculation of scale of growth of floating wind market in China by 2026 and adds quotes from Westwood Energy's Chen