Thursday, 31 March 2011

On Solar Power In Taiwan

Taiwan does get a bit of sun; I've been sunburned whilst swimming in the sea here in January... That said, Taiwan isn't the Mojave Desert. According to, there are on average 1644 hours of sunlight per year in Taiwan to California's 3348. Moreover, unlike in the Mojave Desert, Taiwan does not exactly have an oversupply of readily available, flat, open land. Yet, bizzarely, in 2009 the government in Taiwan constructed a pilot solar power plant of only 1 MW capacity comprising two hectares in Lhuju, Kaohsiung County for a cost of NT$246 million. A larger solar plant was planned of 450 MW capacity at a cost of NT$10.5 billion - presumably, we may extrapolate from the 1 MW / 2 hectare ratio to guess that the land area to be taken up is around 9sqkm. The numbers for either the pilot or the full scale project just don't make strict financial sense; in comparison to the solar pilot for example, a single E-126 wind turbine, with a capacity of 7 MW could have been built on 2% of that pilot land area at a capital cost of only NT$23 million - to extrapolate up from that, a wind farm of E-126 turbines at 450 MW capacity (64 turbines) could have been built on just over 7sqkm of land for a capital cost of only NT$1.5 billion - a seventh the cost of the solar plant! But of course all of this is to misunderstand the purpose of the project as you know, electricity generation, instead of just another welfare project for Taiwan's infant solar industry - the sickly child of the semi-conductor industry.

I have no principle objection to any form of energy production per se, and in the case of adding solar panels to large buildings for company headquarters, a solar installation makes economic sense; my objection is to funding solar installations on either the small scale, household level or large scale, power plant level with stolen money.

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