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Taiwan to Expand Its Wind Power Capacity

Sep 28, 2007 - International Herald Tribune

Taiwan may spend more than 100 billion New Taiwan dollars, or $3 billion, during the next three years to increase wind power capacity tenfold and cut coal and gas imports. "Renewable energy can help us reduce dependence on overseas resources," Wang Yunn-ming, the deputy director general of Taiwan's energy bureau, said Thursday.

Wind may help curb use of coal and natural gas, which currently each fuel about a third of Taiwan's power generators.

The target of constructing turbines with a capacity of 2,159 megawatts compared with 217.2 megawatts now may prove overambitious, said an economist, Liang Chi-yuan.

"There's a big question mark over whether Taiwan can build so many wind turbines," said Liang, from Academia Sinica in Taipei, the island's state research institute.

"The best locations are already taken," Liang said.

Generating electricity from wind costs about 1.7 dollars for each kilowatt-hour, compared with the average of 1.3 dollars in Taiwan, Wang said.

The state-run utility Taiwan Power pays wind turbine operators 2 dollars per kilowatt-hour, he said. The island imports all of its coal and more than 90 percent of its gas needs.

"Wind power technology is the most mature among renewables, and its costs are close to those of traditional generation," he said.

The figure of more than 100 billion dollars will include spending on Taiwan's first undersea electricity cables to transmit power from offshore sites as far away as the Penghu archipelago, about 45 kilometers, or 28 miles, from the main island, Wang said.

Offshore turbine capacity may total 360 megawatts by 2010, according to a report from the bureau.

That may eventually rise to 1,200 megawatts, Wang said, without giving a time frame.

Wind farms, both those built on land and in the sea, may account for about 5 percent of the total installed capacity in Taiwan by 2010, he said. That compares with 0.4 percent as of July, according to Taiwan Power.

This month the government started accepting applications from private companies for building the first offshore wind farm, citing difficulties in finding onshore sites.

Permission for a total of 300 megawatts will be granted within three years.

The government is promoting wind power because "we have plentiful wind resources," Wang said.

The turbines on Taiwan are productive for as much as 35 percent of the time, compared with 20 percent in Germany, he said.

Waters along the island's western coast have "suitable" sites for offshore wind farms, Wang said. Taiwan also has companies that produce components for turbines, including Formosa Heavy Industries and Teco Electric & Machinery, he said.

Teco, based in Taipei, makes household appliances. Formosa Heavy, also in Taipei, is a unit of Formosa Plastics Group.

Wind power of 300 megawatts can replace the equivalent of 250,000 kiloliters, or 1.57 million barrels, of oil and cut emissions of more than 620,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases a year, according to the bureau.

Taiwan accounted for 1 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions in 2004.

Another reason for the government to push for wind power is to improve "energy security," Wang said.

Taiwan Power, which produces about 75 percent of the island's electricity and monopolizes transmission in Taiwan, suspended a plan to build a coal-fired station in June after a government panel recommended dropping the project because of concerns the plant will increase carbon dioxide emissions.

Without new coal plants the island may see its backup capacity slip to almost zero by 2015, Tu Yueh-yuan, Taiwan Power's chief engineer, said in April.

Originally published by Bloomberg News.

(c) 2007 International Herald Tribune. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.