China plans to build three marine renewable-energy trial parks by 2016, to help speed up the commercial expansion of the wave and tidal power industry, a senior official said.
"The parks will be developed in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, Zhoushan, Zhejiang province and Weihai, Shandong province, to help accelerate research and development in marine energy technologies," said Kang Jian, deputy director of the science and technology department of the State Oceanic Administration, on the eve of the World Oceans Day. Such parks generate electricity by converting the energy of waves and tides.
The site in Zhuhai will be a wave park, where a 300-kilowatt wave farm and a test site will be built, while the Zhoushan site will have a tide farm with a 1 megawatt or more capacity and a test zone.
The one in Weihai will be a comprehensive project for wave and tide power, according to the administration.
"Once the parks are built, companies and institutions can research and develop marine wave and tide power technologies there and turn them into products," Kang said.
Because the parks are still in the design phase, authorities did not disclose the total investment involved.
Lian Lian, a researcher at the State Key Laboratory of Ocean Engineering, applauded the plan, saying the trial parks will be platforms connecting scientists and engineers with users, forming a complete chain from research and development to testing and final application.
"These parks will definitely boost the country's science and technology development in marine renewable energy," Lian said.
The State Oceanic Administration's latest marine resources survey, released in 2011, estimated that marine energy potential in the coastal areas can reach 1.6 billion kW.
The huge potential bodes well for the country's large appetite for energy.
As a newcomer to the nascent marine energy industry, China, the world's largest energy consumer, is accelerating its pace in exploring the ocean for the country's future energy supplies.
The 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15) on renewable energy spelled out that by 2015, the country plans to build offshore marine power farms with a total capacity of 50,000 kW, helping lay the foundation for commercial expansion.
"Developing marine renewable energy will be on top of our work agenda in the coming years," said Lei Bo, director of the SOA's science and technology department.
But because marine energy technology is in an early stage, the large-scale commercial exploration of marine energy cannot be realized before 2030, according to a report released in late May by the National Ocean Technology Center.
Kang admitted that the investment in research and development of marine energy technology is huge and said the government needs to take the lead.
From 2010, the central government has allocated 800 million yuan ($128 million) for marine energy funding, sponsoring 93 related projects.
As one of the sponsored projects, the expansion of the Jiangxia tidal range power station in Zhejiang, operated since 1980, is scheduled to be completed in September. The annual capacity will increase by 200,000 kWh.
"It is a good sign that the investment in the marine sector is increasing and the marine economy is playing a role in the country's economic blueprint," Lian said.