By Brian Collett
Five projects have been begun jointly by UK and Chinese government-backed experts to produce the next generation of offshore renewable energy technologies.
The program, lasting three years, is tackling the challenges posed by offshore wind, wave and tide power to maximize their environmental and economic benefits.
The researchers hope to show where the best energy resources are available and where the new technologies will be most effective and to strengthen them to resist extreme events such as typhoons and earthquakes.
During their researches they aim to showcase the potential of offshore renewable energy to provide a stable power supply for island and coastal communities, particularly in China, and to find ways of reducing any uncertainty in drawing power from these alternative sources.
One project, led by Imperial College London and Zhejiang University in eastern China, is using data science and computing to help in the design of more economical offshore wind farms.
In another project scientists at Oxford and Shanghai Jiao Tong Universities are working on structural designs to increase the resilience of turbines to typhoons.
A third, led by Cranfield University and Harbin Engineering University in northern China, is considering how to lower costs in the building and operation of offshore installations.
The work is backed in the UK by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the government funding body, and the Natural Environment Research Council, the main government agency for financing and managing research and training in environmental sciences. Support in China is provided by the National Natural Science Foundation.
The UK contribution is almost £4m ($5.6m, €4.5m). Figures are not shown for the Chinese funding.
Richard Harrington, the UK Energy and Industry Minister, 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.”
Professor Philip Nelson, chief executive of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, had high praise for the specialists involved: “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.”
Dr. Yang Wei, president of the Chinese foundation, spoke of the financial and anti-pollution benefits: “Further advancing China’s already world-leading renewable energy sector is an integral part of the country’s 13th five-year plan and will help to drive future economic growth and advance the cause of low-carbon development.”
Government data shows that in 2016, the latest year for which figures are available, 47 per cent of the UK’s electricity came from clean energy sources. Renewable sources, including wind and solar farms and hydroelectric dams and biomass, generated 25 per cent.
The Westwood Global Energy Group, a London consultancy, has predicted that offshore wind energy capacity throughout the world will increase fivefold in the next seven years.