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8.2GW offshore wind farm the surest bet to meet South Korea’s zero-carbon target

As the need for renewable energy rises to curb global warming, South Korea is warming up to installing the world’s largest offshore wind farm on the southwest coast of the Asian nation. The project is projected to cost Moon Jae-in’s government about $42.8 billion and is one of the government’s arrays of projects aimed at meeting the country’s zero-carbon targets by 2050.

This project will displace many workers who sourced their livelihood from fishing, but the locals think it is for the greater good of the country’s energy goals. “I initially opposed the idea when the plan was proposed because it will destroy our livelihood,” said Jung Kuenbae, who leads local fishermen.

“But I realized the project is part of the country’s transition to cleaner energy, which is something we have to come to terms with, rather than fighting against it.” South Korea is one of the largest consumers of electricity due to its industrial nature. Two-thirds of the country’s electricity comes from burning fossil fuels. Renewable energy contributed barely 6.5% to the national grid in 2019, mainly from nuclear power.

“South Korea will have to source almost all of its electricity from renewable energy if it’s ever going to reach climate neutrality by 2050. It is a daunting task,” noted Lee Sanghoon, President of New and Renewable Energy Center at Korea Energy Agency.

In his second term, President Moon Jae-in pledges a ‘Green New Deal’ to accelerate the transition to clean energy. His government plans to increase renewable energy capacity to 20% of total electricity by 2030. Most of South Korea’s power is imported, apart from a small amount of gas and coal. Investing in green energy projects will save the country about $73 billion per year.

The topography and climate of the Asian country limits installation of some renewable energy sources such as Photovoltaic arrays and onshore wind farms. Thus, offshore wind farms are the best option in pursuit of carbon neutrality. South Korea already has one of the world’s biggest tidal power plants.

But offshore wind is preferable since open sea winds are more consistent. Furthermore, there is plenty of space to install giant and efficient turbines. Local oppositions could be a threat to the success of this project. BloomNEF predicted in September last year that South Korea’s renewable energy goals could be shuttered by “severe opposition” from residents.

To navigate the problem, the government passed a law to allow the locals to get a thirty percent stake in the local renewable energy projects. “Renewable energy will become a stable source of income for Shinan residents, who are mostly in their 70s and 80s,” said Kim Jung Dae, a 63-year farmer who represents a group of residents. “I wouldn’t be surprised if Shinan became the most well-off island in the country,” added.

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