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Some members of the ResIn project team: Dezhi Ning, Lars Johanning, Bing Teng, Philipp Thies, Ying Gou

Project develops next generation of offshore renewable energy technology

World-leading researchers from the University of Exeter will collaborate with counterparts in China on a pioneering new project to develop the next generation of offshore renewable energy (ORE) technologies.

The project, co-lead by Professor Bing Chen from Dalian University of Technology in China, has received a grant of more than £800,000 from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), and RMB2.94million from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) as part of the Joint UK-China Offshore Renewable Energy programme.

Professor Johanning, an expert in Ocean Technology based at the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus said: “The conflict between increasing energy demand and clean energy generation is one of the most pressing challenges for developing economies. The vision of this holistic multi-disciplinary project is to provide a foundation to develop and demonstrate an integrated approach to system resilience for offshore renewable energy in China and the UK, progressing energy security at reduced environmental impacts.”

Professor Bing Chen from Dalian University added: “China has stepped up the installation of solar energy and onshore wind capacity; however the industrialised centres along the coast do not have significant renewable energy resources available, apart from one: Offshore wind energy. The China Sea is potentially the largest offshore energy market in the world with up to 500GW capacity, a third of which is only be exploitable with floating installations.”

The project, entitled Resilient Integrated-Coupled FOW platform design methodology (ResIn) – is designed to investigate the potential of offshore wind to act as a viable electricity source, particularly for emerging economies such as China which have traditionally relied on fossil fuels such as coal-fired power plants.

In China specifically, the energy demand is at its highest along the industrialised and densely populated coastal regions. However, existing solar, wind and hydro resources are primarily located in the North West and South West of the vast country, and electricity transmission via the grid is already constrained.

The Chinese government therefore has identified offshore wind energy as one of the primary energy resources, with a potential to offset as many as 340 coal-fired power stations each year.

With offshore wind energy generation currently more expensive than fossil fuels in China, and a high risk of typhoon damage, the project will also look at ways of cheapening production of renewable wind energy, as well as making the supply more secure. 

Professor Johanning added:  “The costs of subsidies for new offshore wind farms have reached a record low, halving in less than three years. Latest news identified that offshore wind is becoming cheaper than nuclear with two companies identifying a strike price of £57.50 per megawatt hour. Building on this achievements the ResIn project focus on secure and affordable energy generation from offshore floating wind in deeper water locations around the globe.”

Launching the Joint UK-China Offshore Renewable Energy programme recently, Richard Harrington, Minister for Energy and Industry, said: The UK is a world leader in offshore wind which helps us meet our climate commitments while we grow the economy and create jobs.

“This £4 million investment will support collaborative research into the next generation of offshore technologies with one of our largest global trading partners, unlocking further opportunities for projects across the UK and the rest of the world.”

EPSRC's Chief Executive, Professor Philip Nelson, said: The Joint UK-China Offshore Renewable Energy programme will build on a successful history of international collaboration between EPSRC and NERC in the UK, and the NSFC in China, across a range of topics.

This multidisciplinary programme has already delivered invaluable research on reducing energy demand at the city scale, the integration of electric vehicles and grid scale energy storage. These new projects bring together some of the leading minds in this field from the UK and China to increase our capacity to generate and distribute affordable, safe, clean energy.”

Date: 15 September 2017