Proving the Power of Wind Energy: Sustainable Development in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta
By Max Longo
Vietnam is developing fast, and with this rapid development comes potential for new productive and sustainable ways to produce energy. During our trip around Vietnam, we visited one of Southeast Asia’s first offshore wind farms in Bac Lieu Province. The wind farm started construction in 2010 and began operation in 2016. With existing plans for a massive expansion, the 62 wind turbines currently have a gross annual electricity output of 335 GW/h, an energy capacity of 99 MW, and is expected to offset 151,330 tons of CO2 emissions a year. I’m motivated by the potential of this wind farm because it aims to address energy access issues in a region that is rapidly developing and is faced with issues of energy insecurity.
How Vietnam serves future energy needs is still evolving. The government had planned to build a large coal-fired power plant in this area, one of many in southern Vietnam. But local concern over impacts, and a desire to reserve local water resources for fisheries, led the government to cancel plans for the coal plant and instead build a wind farm (coal-fired thermal plants require a lot of water for cooling). Amazingly, the wind farm produces enough energy for the entire province of Bac Lieu. The choice to switch away from coal burning and toward wind power is wise environmentally, economically and socially.
The project has been successful in addressing energy access and could pave the way for additional renewable energy generation, substituting for future coal-fired power energy development. My hope is that this wind farm sets a precedent for future projects in Southeast Asia and that it will influence sustainable energy projects in developing nations throughout the world.
The project has major significance in the Mekong Delta region for an additional reason – it demonstrates the power of collaboration between nations in building infrastructure that mitigates C02 emissions. This wind farm was the first project developed under the U.S.-Vietnam private sector agreement, which is a partnership included under the U.S.-Asia Pacific comprehensive energy partnership. The billion-dollar renewable energy project is funded in partnership with the U.S Export-Import Bank, which provides a credit line to the Vietnam Development Bank, which then provides an investment credit and foreign loan. General Electric provided the wind turbine infrastructure.
This project has potential to demonstrate the power of wind energy and global collaboration. Developed and developing nations can work together in strategic partnership to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, provide energy in areas with insecure access, and all while generate profitable returns for investors. This solves problems on multiple levels, which is maybe why the project has plans to double it wind turbine infrastructure.
The wind farm we visited also serves as a tourist attraction. In the middle of the project, with turbines towering over you at every angle, sits a gift-ship where one can buy a coffee mug, t-shirt or even a wind turbine trophy. The Province is proud of their magnificent renewable energy project and has good reason to boast.
Visiting Southeast Asia’s first offshore wind farm was an amazing experience for me. I have never seen such a large scale renewable energy project in person before. The magnitude of the turbines surprised me. I will never forget my experience or the feeling of hope I gained about the future. As I walked through the immense turbines I felt the strong winds which constantly blow along the coasts all over the world. I had a feeling of hope about the future. I knew I was looking at a project of the future. Two nations collaborative efforts for reducing green-house gas emissions and combating the effects of climate change can be seen on the coast of Bac Lieu Province. Hope is on the horizon.