CLP wind farm to impact southeast Hong Kong

Received this from "Preserve Clearwater Bay" [not sure if a group, or an individual]:

About five years from now, when you take your kids to Clearwater Bay Country Park for kite-flying, you would probably be annoyed to see 67 giant turbines, each as tall as Jardine House in Central with blades as long as a Boeing jet, lining up outside Ninepin islands, or Kwo Chau Kwan To.

Clearwater Bay Peninsula and its surrounding marine territory are renowned for its stunning natural beauty, and are the very few virgin lands in Hong Kong which have escaped from industrial and domestic developments.  Thus Clearwater Bay and the country park are “showcase of unique landforms and topographic features. Whether you are into serious geological studies or just a lover of natural landscape, Clearwater Bay has a lot to offer,” said the Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department.

Unfortunately, this very last untainted nature scene in Hong Kong is going to be ruined by an Offshore Wind Farm which will be built at approximately 9 km and 5km east of the Clearwater Bay peninsula and East Ninepin Island, respectively. The wind farm projected is co-developed by China Light & Power Group (CLP) and a U.K-based consultancy firm Wind Prospect.

Environmental Cost of CLP’s Wind Farm

The partners have quietly submitted an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study to the government and are now seeking the government’s approval to kick off the project. Without much-needed publicity, the general public could hardly realize the wind farm will affect the priceless maritime and natural environments of Clearwater Bay on the following scores.

(1)   Water quality:

Despite CLP claimed the turbine foundations construction would not pollute water quality, but the company predicted to see negative impact along the cable transmission route in Junk Bay (see the following diagram from CLP’s EIA report) where dredging would be required.

(2)   Although the wind farm will be built on silty mud seabed of low ecological value, the neighboring Eastern Waters are reaffirmed to have high marine benthic conservation interest.

(3)   CLP said the waters of the proposed wind farm are not frequented by Indo-Pacific hump-backed dolphins and are only lightly utilized by finless porpoises (江豚). Yet, according to Hong Kong Dolphin Conversation Society Chairman Samuel Hung, there are over 100 finless porpoises in Hong Kong and they are commonly seen in the sheltered coastal waters around the Ninepins and Po Toi islands which are close to the wind farm.   In an interview with Oriental Daily, Hung challenged the reliability of CLP’s study which spotted dolphins only 4 times out of over 20 site visits. Hung said the possibility of seeing dolphin in that area is much higher than CLP’s figure.

(4)   There are about 57 bird species in the area. Among them, several species including While-bellied Sea Eagle, Red-necked Phalarope, Black-tailed Gull, Cattle Egret, Aleutian Tern and White-winged Black Tern are highly sensitive to wind farm and have relatively high conservation significance.

(5)   The underwater cultural heritage is also under risk. There are eight partially buried targets with marine archaeological potential have been identified within the wind farm proposed site.  One of the eight heritage targets is estimated to be damaged by array cable installation.

(6)   The 67 giant wind turbines will hugely change the landscape of Clearwater Bay and greatly tarnish the natural beauty of the region.

On the surface, it seems difficult to challenge the wind farm project which is widely recognized as renewable energy without carbon dioxide emission. Nevertheless, the environmental cost of CLP’s wind farm proposal indeed will outweigh its benefit.

Insignificant Benefits

According to CLP’s blueprint, the wind farm will have a capacity to produce up to 200 MW of electricity, approximately 1% (only 1% !) of total electricity needs in Hong Kong.

By using the wind farm to generate that 1% of electricity, CLP estimated the project to offset annually

-       343,000 - 383,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide;

-       54 - 60 tonnes of sulphur dioxide;

-       394 - 440 tonnes of nitrogen oxides; and

-       14 - 16 tonnes of particulate material.

What do these figures mean to us?

At the O2 Vision Climate Conference held in June 2008, Hong Kong’s Secretary of Environment Edward Yau reviewed that there were some 45 million tonnes CO2 equivalent local greenhouse gas emissions in Hong Kong per year, which account for around 0.2% of global emissions.  Power generation is principal source of greenhouse gas emissions, producing about 27 million tones CO2 equivalent a year, accounting for more than 60% of Hong Kong’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

In other words, building 67 giant turbines could only cut down about at most 1.4% of HK’s total CO2 emission.

So What’s The Deal?

In Hong Kong, more than 50% of the electricity is generated from coal burning (the rest is produced by natural gas and imported from the nuclear plant in Guangdong). Hong Kong government has been urging the two electricity companies (CLP and Hong Kong Electric Holdings) to use more natural gas to replace coal in power generation as natural gas-fired power stations create 50- 70% less greenhouse gas emissions than existing coal-fired generators.

If CLP purely wants to generate more green energy, it can alter some of its coal turbines into natural gas turbines, or simply import more nuclear energy from Guangdong.

Nevertheless, the production cost of natural gas-generation is about double the traditional coal power plant. While the operating cost of running the wind farm may be less than the cost of existing coal turbine, depending the maintenance expense for wind turbine.

Pursuant to the present regulation, the Hong Kong government won’t allow the two electricity companies to raise tariff only because of higher operating costs. The rate of return of CLP and Hong Kong Electric are indeed governed by their total assets value. So the more they invest in infrastructure (such as a wind farm), the higher the return they can enjoy.

Based on the new Scheme of Control Agreements signed in January 2008, the two power companies’ rates of return are linked to their environmental performance, and the government agreed to grant a higher return (11%) for the power companies’ investment in renewable energy facilities.

CLP didn’t reveal the estimated amount of investment for the wind farm project, but the project will definitely lift the return for CLP. Households in Kowloon and New Territories have to be prepared to pay more for their electricity bills once the wind farm project is approved.

Only Two Weeks Left To Oppose The Project

If you don’t want to sacrifice the natural environment of Clearwater Bay for the sake of someone’s pocket; if you would like to preserve the nature for your children and the next generation of Hong Kong, please take action and spare just a few minutes to voice your opinion at this poll-  Have Your Say. (http://www.hongkongoffshorewind.com/haveyoursay.html)

Public consultation period will be closed on July 2.

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Martin Williams's picture

I've visited above link, and commented.

Re benefits, I put:

Reducing air pollution, inc CO2 outputs; may prove a step towards sustainable energy for HK.

Re concerns:

Yes: not sure it's been well thought out. Not sure enough power will be generated. Impacts on environment, inc scenic aspects - esp with Geopark coming soon; plus bird strikes in part of HK crossed by many migrants (esp at night) could be serious. [The bird surveys were during daytime, in fine weather; surely chances of bird strikes highest at night, and during weather with poor visibility. We know from Po Toi observations - curiously not even mentioned in the EIA that I can see - that many migrants such as Chinese Goshawks may arrive on certain days, inc during poor visibility.)

Also commented on HK Birdw Soc forum thread re the wind farm, with my above remark re birds, plus:

Indeed seems lacking that EIA doesn't include radar studies of migrants; could have been very useful, albeit bird detecting radars maybe not so readily available.

In writing the comment, I was mindful of day Richard Lewthwaite and others experienced on Po Toi, with hundreds of Chinese Goshawks coming down from misty sky [as I recall being told]. Such an arrival surely also possible over and through wind farm site; I find the EIA lacking in not discussing such a possibility.
Writing this, wonder too re shorebirds, say. How sad if, say, a godwit arriving direct from Australia was smacked from the sky by a turbine.

Yes, we need to use way less fossil fuel, or will wreak far more carnage on the planet than wind farms ever could. But this might not be best way for HK to achieve such reductions; indeed it misses core issues like slashing energy use, properly green buildings. Not that CLP is likely to be real helpful w cutting energy use.

Association of Geoconservation, Hong Kong (AGHK)strongly object against CLP proposed offshore wind farm in Sai Kung, our comments are as follows:

1. The proposed project is located at the heart of the Sai Kung Caldera, a large volcanic depression created 140 million years ago which signifies the end of the last volcanic episodes in Hong Kong. This will permanently destroy our invaluable geological heritage - the home of the world largest and most extensively covered hexagonal columns. Its uniqueness and rarity are incomparable with other parts of the world;
2. The turbine clusters, located less than 5km east of Ninepin Group and south of Basalt Island, will destroy the last, remaining view of world class natural scenery which is absent of any man-made structures;
3. The unique Sai Kung breath-taking natural scenery will definitely be destroyed by the wind farm;
4. The wind farm only produces less than 1% of annual electricity consumption of HK, the irreparable damage done to our invaluable geological heritage and natural scenery is unjustified for such minimal efficiency;
5. The EIA report not only neglected the adverse impact on geology, it has also not taken into account of the negative impact on hikers and nature lovers who seriously value the visual impact– one of the stakeholders;
6. Hong Kong has small area which is not suitable for building such large wind farm projects.
7. We support the initiatives to produce clean energy in HK and reduce air pollutants. However by damaging our environment in order to achieve some insignificant target figures is unjustified.

I am sad to learn that 67 giant wind turbines are going to be erected at the most natural and beautiful waters of HK.

I am always proud of HK, being a crowded metropolitan city and yet is able to preserve 50% of its land as rural and many of them are wilderness, not a single trace being left by human infrastructure.

There are other better and more environmental friendly options to be used to reduce CO2 emission and develop renewable energy. Buying nuclear power from China, public education to change the lifestyle and habits can easily achieve 1-2 % of renewable energy target and save electricity consumption.

HK is too small, unlike UK or other countries. We do not have large area for building such concrete structures (>8m in diameter, >125m in height, total 67 turbines in a hugh cluster, taking away 15sq km of our precious sea area).

The joke is such massive project only produces

You may like to have your say directly to the Environmental Department at [link not working - Martin]

Martin Williams's picture

After I sent email to HK Outdoors members re the wind farm, had a reply including:

As for the wind farm, we have them in Australia, and they are quite beautiful. They may be slightly intrusive to the immediate area, but are a huge improvement on many other environmentally distructive alternatives.