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Seoul unveils US$8.2 bln offshore wind farm project
SEOUL, Nov. 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korea announced a 9.2 trillion won (US$8.2 billion) project Tuesday to build its largest offshore wind farm in the Yellow Sea in an effort to further harness renewable energy and cut its dependence on fossil fuels.

   Under the three-phase plan, the country will first build a "proving area" by 2013 in waters off the coast of southwestern Buan and Yeonggwang counties to test 20 five-megawatt turbines from various South Korean manufacturers, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said.

   An additional 180 five-megawatt turbines will be installed by 2016, followed by 300 five-megawatt turbines by 2019 at the proposed complex that will generate a total of 2,500 megawatts of electricity.

   The project has been scaled down from an earlier plan. Ministry officials told Yonhap News Agency in September that the government had planned to build up to 1,000 wind turbines by 2019.

   The value of the project, however, remains little affected as the cost of building the foundation for the complex and underwater grids takes up nearly half of the entire cost, the ministry officials said.

   "The plan is to make South Korea the world's third-largest country in terms of offshore wind power generation," Kang Nam-hoon, head of the ministry's energy and climate change policy division, told a press briefing.

   "And to be able to export related equipment and technology, we need a good track record of actually building and operating such facilities. The project partly aims to do that," he added.

   The proposed plan comes as Seoul is working to increase its use of renewable energy sources as the country currently depends on imports for nearly 97 percent of all its energy needs.

   The government is expected to soon introduce the so-called Renewable Portfolio Standards, or RPS, for enforcement from the beginning of 2012. The RPS will require all electric power companies generating and selling more than 500 megawatts of electricity per hour to gradually increase the proportion of their power supplies from renewable energy sources from 2 percent in 2012 to 10 percent in 2022.

   Ministry officials earlier told Yonhap News Agency that the government plans to build 11 nuclear reactors by 2030, which will bring up the proportion of power generated by nuclear plants to 30 percent of all electricity supplies from the current 14 percent. South Korea currently has 20 nuclear reactors in operation and is building eight new reactors.

   South Korea pledged in late 2009 to voluntarily cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent from its forecast or business-as-usual level in 2020.