China tidal energy industry makes progress

Under the serious pressure of energy shortages and environmental pollution, China has formulated various strategy measures to accelerate the development of renewable energy technologies.

Among them the medium and long-term China’s target, increasing the portion of renewable energy in the final primary energy consumption to 15 per cent by 2020, was set in Medium and Long-Term Development Plan for Renewable Energy in China.

It is a difficult task, while it is an opportunity for renewable energy technologies. At present, China is in the midst of the tidal power utilization feasibility study stage, and has spent $3.3 billion on related survey work, is expected to start construction as early as 10 years later.

As one of the promising renewable energy resources, tidal current energy has no choice but to gain a significant development during this period and substantially contribute to the accomplishment of the renewable energy targets. The efforts in research and development in tidal current energy have gained the support of the national financial budget.

The government of China supports tidal current energy by establishing R&D plans to fund many R&D projects directly. The main government technology R&D plans include Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC), National High Technology Research and Development Program (‘‘863’’ Program) and National Key Technology R&D Program (NKTRDP).

Along with the awareness of the significance of renewable energy, some energy companies in China have shown interest in this field.

For example, some energy companies, such as Longyuan Power Group, China Huaneng Group and China Datang Corporation et al., have substantially contributed to the development of wind energy in China. And the biggest traditional energy companies in China, such as Shenhua Group, China National Petroleum Corporation, China Petrochemical Corporation and China National Offshore Oil Corp., are also involved in renewable energy.

A renewable program, invested by China National Offshore Oil Corp., concerning tidal current energy is being discussed, which plans to build a demonstration base including tidal current, wave and wind in a isolate island. Therefore, with the join of these big companies, there will be a significant increase of investment in tidal current energy.

Though great advancements have been achieved in the development of tidal current energy utilization, technologies in China are still far from maturity. There are many problems including high cost, poor stability and small-scale systems besides the common technology challenges in the development of tidal current, such as loadings, operation and maintenance.

It should be noted that, from the technical point of view, the prospect of China’s tidal current is far from optimistic. The tidal current systems that have been installed to date in China are small off-grid tidal current power (<100 kW), and are on the stage of technical feasibility demonstration. However with the strong support of China government and the great investment of China local big energy companies, the tidal energy will have a wonderful prospect and the industry is ready for booming.

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