China added a record amount of offshore wind last year as the country added massive amounts of renewable energy to help meet climate goals.
The country now has the largest fleet of offshore wind turbines in the world after adding 16.9 gigawatts in 2021, state-owned CCTV reported, citing National Energy Administration data. Total wind installations were 47.57 gigawatts, while the country added 52.97 gigawatts of solar.
The offshore surge came as developers raced to get projects hooked up to the grid before a Dec. 31 deadline to earn national subsidy payments. The 16.9 gigawatts represents nearly half the world’s total installed offshore capacity before last year, and more than double the previous annual record for global installations, according to BloombergNEF data.
China’s offshore wind installations last year “achieved large-scale growth, thanks to sufficient preparation of the supply chain and fast improvement of construction capacity,” said Leo Wang, an analyst with BNEF. Wang said the experience from last year’s rush will help reduce costs in coming years.
Last year marks the second in a row that the country added more than 100 gigawatts of combined wind and solar capacity, as it aims to hit 1,200 by 2030 to help it peak emissions by then and be on target to reach net zero by 2060.
China now has 306 gigawatts of solar and 328 gigawatts of wind installed, the most of any country. It still has a long way to go in order to rein in its world-leading greenhouse gas emissions, though. The country relied on fossil fuel generation for 71 percent of its total electricity supply last year.
The 2021 surge in offshore wind won’t last with subsidies expiring, according to Wang, who expects new additions to fall to about 4 gigawatts this year. Still, the technology has bright prospects in money-rich but land-poor coastal provinces that can’t install onshore wind and solar in massive scale, such as Guangdong, Jiangsu, Shandong, and Zhejiang. Onshore wind projects should grow this year thanks to a massive desert renewables project President Xi Jinping announced in October.
Last year’s solar installations nearly matched the record 53.06 gigawatts added in 2017. More than half last year’s additions came in the form of distributed projects such as rooftop panels. That record should be toppled this year as solar manufacturers add capacity to fix their strained supply chain. BloombergNEF projects 81 to 92 gigawatts of new solar projects coming online this year.