Taiwan is one of the world’s most developed countries due to its high-tech industry and massive chip production capacity. However, this level of production requires a significant amount of electricity. Additionally, Taiwan’s limited land area of 36,000 square km, coupled with a population of 23 million, presents challenges. Despite these challenges, many Taiwanese are eager to produce as much clean energy as possible with their limited resources. It’s worth mentioning that the Taiwanese government has set a significant goal of creating a non-nuclear homeland by 2025.
According to data from the think tank Ember, Taiwan imports approximately 98% of its energy sources and relies on fossil fuels for over 80% of its electricity, with around 43% from coal and 39% from natural gas. Only 16% of Taiwan’s energy comes from clean sources, which is almost half of other Asian countries like China, South Korea, Japan, and India. This emphasizes the need for Taiwan to increase its production of clean energy, with solar and wind energy being the most viable options.
In recent years, Taiwan has seen significant growth in its investment in solar energy. In 2022, solar energy became Taiwan’s largest source of renewable energy generation, producing 10.69 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity compared to 3.53 TWh from wind. Although wind energy investments are gradually increasing, Taiwan has more than 66,000 megawatts of total wind power capacity under development, ranking fourth in Asia and ninth globally, according to Global Energy Monitor.
Solar Energy in Central Taiwan
In the southern part of Taiwan, in Chiayi city’s Yi Zhu Township, a large solar power plant has been established. Constructed by Weineng Energy on the abandoned eighth production area of the Butai Salt Farm, this photovoltaic field initially held the record for the largest installation capacity of solar panels in Taiwan. However, it has since been surpassed by the Tainan Yantian Solar Photovoltaic Farm built by Taiwan Electric Power Company. The director of the power plant, Ms. Lin, stated, “A total of 195,000 solar photovoltaic panels were installed in the field, with an annual installation capacity of 70.2MW. The power generation is 103 million kilowatt-hours, expected to supply 28,000 households with electricity for the entire year. Additionally, the power plant can reduce approximately 60,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, saving 38,000 tons per year and 10,000 liters of water resources, with a total investment of NT$2.5 billion.”
Controversial issues during construction
In 2018, when Weineng Energy began construction, they recruited nearly 600 local villagers. However, environmental groups raised concerns about the impact on the habitat of black-faced spoonbills and migratory birds. Weineng Energy responded by reducing the scale of development, preserving 24 hectares of abandoned salt flats as an ecological buffer conservation area. They committed to ongoing ecological and environmental surveys and cooperation with environmental groups to monitor the migration routes of various birds.
Producing electricity on the roof!
Another method of producing energy in Taiwan involves installing solar panels on building roofs. Particularly in areas with limited space, such as Taipei City, Taiwanese residents use roofs to generate energy for their community. The chairman of Xinyi New Town Community in Da’an District, Taipei City, mentioned, “Our community, with 10 buildings and 144 households, installed a total of 457 pieces (approximately 250 square meters) of photovoltaics with a total of 147KW.” The community signed a 20-year wholesale purchase contract with Tai power, generating 150,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. Since the installation in 2019, the community’s annual income has reached about 1 million yuan, recoverable in 7 or 8 years.
Taiwan appears to be making significant efforts to increase its use of solar power for clean energy. With the support of both the government and the private sector, Taiwan aims to become one of the world’s most advanced energy producers. Achieving the goal of becoming a non-nuclear country by 2025 would be a remarkable success story for this small island nation.