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In South Korea, Shell is planning to build a huge floating offshore wind farm

The formation of a joint venture based on installing a gigantic floating wind power plant in waters off South Korea’s coast has officially been announced. Shell holds an 80% share in the MunmuBaram joint venture, with CoensHexicon holding the other 20%. The latter is a partnership between COENS, based in South Korea, and Hexicon, based in Sweden.

Shell stated in a statement that the project was in the “feasibility assessment stage.” The 1.4-gigawatt wind farm, if developed, would be located between 65 – 80 kilometers off the Ulsan’s coast, which is a coastal city and industrial powerhouse in the country’s southeast. The proposed plant, which would be built in stages, would have water depths of 120 to 160 meters. It could generate up to 4.65 terawatt-hours of electricity per year, enough to power over 1 million homes.

“Shell sees offshore wind energy as a critical component of a net-zero power system, in South Korea and worldwide,” said Joe Nai, who is the Shell’s general manager (GM) of the offshore wind Asia. The MunmuBaram enterprise was formally established at a time when South Korean authorities were aiming for carbon neutrality by 2050. The nation wants renewable energy to account for 20% of total power generation by 2030, up from about 7.6% in the year 2017 and plans to build 12 gigawatts of the offshore wind capacity by then.

Shell isn’t the only major corporation working on floating offshore wind projects. Kansai Electric Power and RWE Renewables revealed last month that they had inked an agreement to investigate the possibility of a huge-scale floating offshore wind facility off the coast of Japan. In 2017, Equinor, a Norwegian energy company, opened Hywind Scotland, which is a 30-megawatt floating offshore wind farm it says “the first total-scale floating offshore wind farm.”

Bottom-fixed offshore wind turbines are anchored to the seabed, whereas wind turbines that are floating offshore are not. Floating turbines are “implemented on top of floating entities that are sealed to the seabed using mooring lines and anchors,” according to RWE. Floating turbines have the benefit of being able to be put in deeper waters than bottom-fixed turbines. “Sites further from shore… tend to profit from more continuous wind resource, indicating floating wind can give larger yields,” according to the Carbon Trust, which is an advisory firm.

While Shell focuses on renewable power projects and claims to strive to be net-zero pollution energy company by 2050, it is still a major fossil fuel producer. In February, the company said that overall oil production had risen in 2019 and that total carbon emissions, at 1.7 gigatonnes for every year, had peaked in 2018.

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