Monday, 4 April 2011

Letter Against Winston Dang (陳重信)


In Monday's editorial, former EPA minister Winston Dang (陳重信) claimed that if only renewable energy output in Taiwan could be raised to 25% of total electricity production then there would be no reason why a future Tsai administration could not achieve a phase-out of nuclear energy. To put actual values on those bones, that means raising the output of renewables from 9 TW hours to 58 TW hours from the annual total for electricity production of 229.7 TW hours. Let us consider how that scale of output could be achieved by means of four sources of energy: combined-cycle gas turbines, onshore windfarms, offshore windfarms and solar photovoltaic.

From a set of top class combined-cycle, multi-shaft gas turbines, that 58 TW hours target could be achieved by 14 such gas-fired power plants (848 MW each operating at 58% efficiency) for a capital cost very similar to the Longmen nuclear plant at NT$280 billion and requiring approximately 7 square kilometres.

In reference to an onshore windfarm facility, and extrapolating from data pertaining to the Enercon E-126 turbine with a power rating of 7 MW, Dang's target of 58 TW hours annually would require 2,478 such mega-turbines, operating at 30% efficiency on 398 square kilometres of land at a capital cost just shy of NT$57 billion. Whilst the capital cost is much cheaper than the gas option, such a windfarm would require 40% more land than Taipei City.

To extrapolate from the published figures for the UK's largest offshore windfarm, the London Array (NT$91 billion; 1,000 MW power rating; 195 square kilometres), such a windfarm in Taiwan, assuming it would operate at 30% efficiency, could generate 58 TW hours annually only if its power rating was increased to 19,400 MW - which would mean so many turbines as to consume 3770 square kilometres at a capital cost of NT$1.8 trillion dollars. That's the size of 14 Taipei Cities - at sea!

Taking our bearings from the Lhuju solar plant, 58 TW hours a year could be generated by so many such plants that they would have a combined power rating of 6,600 MW, cover an area of 7,250 square kilometres (or 26.5 Taipei Cities!) and would have to be built at a capital cost of almost NT$9 trillion dollars! Even if a Tsai administration decided to make solar cell purchases compulsory for every rooftop of every kind of building in all of Taiwan's major (and minor) cities, that would only take up, at most (i.e. the real figure is probably a third of this) 3,422 square kilometres, and thus only 27.3 TW hours a year.

In his editorial Dang even went so far as to claim that not only would 25% of total electricity production be an appropriate target for renewable investment to aim for, but that Taiwanese people should even be aiming for 100% by 2050. Sirs... with numbers this bad who could possibly trust Dang even with the till at a local 7-11?

Yours freely,
Michael Fagan.

(Sent Tuesday April 5th 2011. Published in the Taipei Times Wednesday April 6th 2011.)

NB: I'm very pleased this was published, and I have no complaints with the edits this time. However, I think it's quite poorly written - my original draft of this letter was more fluent but was well over the word limit).

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