South Korea is getting big into wind. It still remains at a nascent stage but the latest from the Asian country is a major offshore wind project in the South and Yellow Seas.

The first stage of the project is a 100 megawatt (MW) wind power test bed in Yeonggwang County, in South Jeolla Province, which plans to be completed by June next year.

Offshore Wind Turbines
image via Shutterstock

There are already two existing wind power test beds in Kim-nyeong on Jeju Island, which will undergo expansion to allow a test run of 5-7 MW turbines.

A smaller capacity turbine, 3-7MW, will be tested at the same site for the South and Yellow Seas wind power project.

The offshore project, which will involve 500 turbines and could eventually grow to a capacity of 1.5 gigawatts (GW), is set to start in August before which date a selection will be made of corporate partners and contracts will be signed. New harbors will be designed to facilitate the assembly of equipment parts and logistics.

Further evidence of the country’s embrace of wind power was an agreement signed recently between United Kingdom renewable trade body Renewable UK and its South Korean counterpart, the Korean Wind Energy Industry Association.

The memorandum of understanding means the two countries have promised to work together to increase trade opportunities in the wind energy sector.

Wind energy capacity in South Korea currently stands at about 407 MW (as of the end of 2011), according to figures posted on the website. That’s a 7.4 percent rise on the previous year and up from just 16 MW in 2002.

Renewable energy sources account for a mere 2 percent of South Korea’ total energy generation. Right now wind has taken second place to solar, though with the government targeting that the country’s energy sector source have 7.5GW installed wind capacity by 2030, things are likely to change.

South Korea is still some way behind its biggest Asian neighbor when it comes to wind power take-up.

Global wind power generation accounts for 2 percent of the world’s electrical energy consumption, with the biggest contributor to that figure China, followed by the U.S. and Germany.

South Korea wants in on the act and in response to all the hype surrounding wind power its heavy industry companies, including Hyundai Heavy Industries and Samsung Heavy Industries, are expected to join the fray.

“A remarkable industry trend to note is the largest shipbuilders such as Hundai Heavy Industry, Samsung Heavy Industry, Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering and STX shipbuilding are now fully concentrated on the offshore wind orientated business industry,” Dr. Rim-taig Lee, Chairman of Korea Wind Energy Industry Association (KWEIA) told the Korean IT Times recently.

According to the paper, the South Korean government is carrying out field studies to locate further suitable sites for the construction of offshore wind power sites, all to be included in a mid and long-term offshore wind power development road map scheduled for release in the first half of next year.