Changhua Port: A Vision to be Fulfilled*

You’re visiting the coastal city of Changhua and decide to embark on a white dolphin safari. The vessel takes you on a tour, gliding past state-of-the-art wind turbines and fishing vessels. After taking photos of the thriving white dolphins, whose numbers have increased thanks to the surrounding offshore wind turbines serving the function of artificial reefs, you head back to shore for seafood at a local restaurant. Inside, you observe a mix of renewable energy professionals and fishers sharing a meal and unwinding after a long day’s work. 

This scene could have been a reality more than three years ago if not for the severe delays in opening a port that would have been the first of its kind in Asia. 

Designed to be Asia-Pacific’s first offshore wind Operation & Maintenance (O&M) port, Changhua Port promised to serve as a beacon of industry prosperity and cooperation across the region, attracting nearby countries like Japan, South Korea, and Vietnam to look to Changhua as a model for balancing the offshore wind industry with traditional fishing activities. 

Since early plans in 2014, Changhua Port’s transformation into a dual-purpose hub has been substantial. Developers have marked it as the dedicated O&M harbor, supported by investments of nearly NT$400 million from Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP) in constructing an O&M base. Local fishers have high expectations for Changhua Port as well, as it would be the first port unaffected by tidal waiting times, allowing fishing activities to operate at any time. Changhua Port is not merely an infrastructure project but a linchpin in Taiwan’s strategy to foster a robust green energy sector while demonstrate successful model of co-existence with local community.  

The blue and white building in the middle is CFXD’s O&M base. Crossing the road, 10 berths for crew transfer vessels (CTV) sit right in front of the O&M base.

Despite these high ambitions, the port has encountered significant setbacks. Since receiving government subsidies in 2017 and 2018, the port has seen issues like local construction contractor bankruptcies and numerous failed bids leading to substantial delays and a stalled final contract signing. The intended opening has been pushed back over three years without a clear launch date, leading to significant inefficiencies for wind farm O&M. Wind farm developers, forced to rely on interim O&M solutions such as leasing additional space in Taichung Port, face increased costs and reduced efficiency, severely impacting both electricity generation and economic viability. 

CIP’s O&M base was designed to meet every need for smooth and agile O&M activities. The building is situated just 50 meters from the port, with the vessels docking right in front of it. The base can easily accommodate the whole O&M team of more than a hundred personnel, offering spacious room for the crew for work preparation and allowing safe storage of spare parts and equipment. Unfortunately, none of these advantages have been realized as originally planned. 

“It takes only 30 minutes to sail to the wind farm from Changhua Port, while at least 2 hours is needed from Taichung Port,” says Marina Hsu, Regional Managing Director of CISC, the service company owned by CIP-managed funds. “Imagine the loss of green electricity generation caused by delayed maintenance, and the waste of time and money.”  

Hsu notes that the delays have caused even more monetary losses for state-owned Taiwan Power Co.’s Phase I offshore windfarm, as it was the first nearshore windfarm in Changhua completed a few years ago. “We hope the new government will see this issue as its chance to rectify the situation and speed up energy transition.” 

After local elections in 2018, Changhua County saw shifts in its promotion of green energy, contributing to delays and deprioritizing of related initiatives. The misalignment of central and local government objectives has not helped the significant delay of this key infrastructure.  

With more wind farms nearing operational readiness, Changhua County must set a definitive opening schedule and initiate bidding for operational units before this summer. It’s also critical for both central and local governments to maintain open lines of communication. “This is not only about retaining international investment, but also for the benefit of hundreds of local fisherman households,” Hsu notes. 

Even if the Changhua Port project reaches completion, challenges persist, particularly in deploying helicopters for wind farm O&M – an industry standard globally. While vessels are commonly used to access wind turbines, their effectiveness diminishes in strong winds that generate heavy waves, leading to potentially hazardous ride. Conversely, helicopters can easily take off with the aid of winds, a capability that allows for ongoing maintenance of turbines to minimize downtime.  

“We’re asking to be allowed deploy more tools to operate more efficiently, adhering to normal industry practice globally” says Hsu. “The government should be naturally incentivized to enable helicopter service industry because it not only supports stable green energy output but is also an industry with high-paid jobs, new equipment supply, and improved safety standards.” 

This new service category requires clarity of regulatory processes and open competition among helicopter operators, notes Hsu. Similarly, through cohesive action and a renewed commitment to its original vision, Changhua Port could still be the benchmark for Asia’s offshore O&M best practice.  

Despite the setbacks, the vision for Changhua Port as a pioneering offshore wind O&M hub remains within reach. As developers, government, and local communities collaborate more closely, the potential to establish a successful, sustainable model that balances modern energy needs with traditional livelihoods is becoming more tangible.  

“Changhua Port is more than a project – it’s a testament to our collective resilience for the sake of a greener future,” says Hsu. “As we move forward, let’s turn the tide of challenges into waves of opportunity. 

*Changhua Port is designed for dual-purpose, with the northern area serving as a fishing port and the southern area dedicated to offshore wind farm O&M.