Wind turbines stationed up to 30 miles offshore and in waters up to 120 feet deep could be a key part of China’s renewable energy program in two or three decades.

The sea-based farms would be ideally situated to supply clean power to the populous and booming east coast area, without competing for space wanted for farming or urban development.

“Offshore wind sites are close to the main electricity load centers in eastern China, so offer great potential for future energy supply,” Shi Pengfei, vice-chairman of the Chinese Wind Energy Association, told a conference.

“I am confident that in 20 to 30 years a very significant proportion of the wind power in China will be off-shore.”

China’s top state planner, Ma Kai, said Saturday the country was looking for more varied energy supplies to reduce its reliance on coal such as nuclear, wind and hydro power.

Coal accounted for about 67 percent of energy consumption and 76 percent of energy production in the world’s fastest-growing major economy, he said.

Sea winds could be harnessed to generate an estimated 750 gigawatts, although few projects were under way now, Shi said.

This would be around 70 percent higher than the country’s total installed generating capacity at the end of 2004 and maybe three times the potential of onshore sites.

China aimed to have 20 gigawatts of wind-generating capacity installed by 2020, equivalent to around 1.0 percent of annual electricity consumption at that time, Shi said.

At present the industry is limited by its high costs, with the price of power generated by a 100 megawatt wind project over two times higher than the equivalent from a coal generator.

The majority of equipment — around four-fifths — is imported and few Chinese firms make larger turbines.

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