South Korea wants to spend $32 billion to create the world’s biggest floating offshore wind farm as part of its attempts to achieve carbon neutrality, according to President Moon Jae-in.
The wind farm complex will be built in the waters off the southeastern industrial city of Ulsan and will produce 6 gigatonnes of electricity, enough to power 5.8 million households, according to a statement issued by the presidential Blue House on Thursday.
The project, which is slated for completion by 2030, is projected to create 210,000 jobs and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 9.3 million tons per year.
“The sea winds are like a carbon-free 21st-century oil resource,” Moon said at an event to review the project in Ulsan on Thursday.
In October, South Korea joined many other developing countries in agreeing to reduce glasshouse gas emissions and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. The fourth-largest economy in Asia is eyeing wind power as a key piece of its renewable energy puzzle, with a goal of becoming one of the world’s top five offshore wind-producing countries over the next decade.
The nation unveiled plans in February for a $43 billion traditional offshore wind farm near the southwestern city of Sinan, with an 8.2-gigatonne capability that would make it the world’s largest.
South Korea is one of the most fossil fuel-reliant countries in the world, getting only 6.5% of its electricity production from renewable energy sources in 2019, according to data from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy. A ministry roadmap released in December calls for raising that figure to nearly 42% by 2034, while downsizing coal, liquified natural gas and nuclear power.
Coal remains the top source of South Korea’s electricity production, accounting for more than 40%, and the country is also a major investor in overseas coal projects. Last month, Moon vowed to end all public financing for new overseas coal-fired power plants at a climate summit hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden.
According to Moon, the Ulsan offshore wind farm would be a “shortcut” to Korea’s renewable energy targets. According to him, the area is an ideal place for wind power, with deep waters and an average wind speed of about 8 metres per second (about 18 mph).
Unlike traditional wind turbines, which are fixed directly to the seabed, floating wind turbines are placed on buoys that are kept in place by anchors and mooring lines, allowing them to be installed further offshore where wind speeds are higher.
Only Portugal and Scotland have commercial floating wind turbines, but the global demand is expected to expand 100 times within the next ten years, according to Moon.
In addition to its effect on renewable energy, Moon said that the wind farm will be a “future growth engine that saves the local economy”
The city has long been recognised as South Korea’s manufacturing centre, as it is home to the country’s shipbuilding and automotive industries, as well as one of the world’s largest oil refineries.
The offshore wind project can depend on established local businesses to provide a new supply chain for items such as turbines, towers, and cables. One-fifth of the electricity produced by the wind farm is expected to deliver 84,000 tonnes of green hydrogen per year, potentially propelling Ulsan to the forefront of the global hydrogen industry.
“Ulsan will leap forward from the industrial capital of the fossil fuel era to the industrial capital of the clean energy era,” Moon said. “Ulsan’s floating offshore wind farms will become oil fields on the sea and open the future of an energy powerhouse.”