Thursday, February 24, 2011

Renewable Energy on the March

A reader flipped me a review of Taiwan's renewable energy policies and industries, looking at solar, wind, and ocean:
If Taiwan's PV success is likely to stay centred around exports, it has significant ambitions for its most obvious natural asset – the oceans that surround it and the winds that blow there.

Offshore wind power is central to Taiwan's renewable energy project, says a spokeswoman for the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), the Taiwanese government's technical arm. 'Renewable energy in Taiwan for the most part will be offshore wind power,' she adds.

The nation's industrial sector announced its offshore ambitions at the end of 2010 with the formation of the Taiwan Offshore Wind Power Alliance – made up of 18 companies from the region's energy, engineering and manufacturing sectors – and plans to set up Taiwan's first offshore wind farm in Changhua County, according to local reports. Commercial operations are due to begin in the second quarter of 2013 with its first two 5 MW turbines. If all goes to plan, these will be joined by a further 122 machines by the end of 2016.

Late 2010 also saw the Taiwanese government unveil its own plans for an 8 MW offshore wind demonstration project off the Penghu Islands, to be operational by the end of 2012. Penghu – a cluster of 90 small islands off the western coast of the Taiwanese mainland – is set to become something of a showcase for the country's renewable and low carbon credentials.

The government has pledged support to turn Penghu into Taiwan's first low-emission county by 2015. Plans include 96 MW of onshore wind capacity, solar energy initiatives and the creation of recharging infrastructure for electric mobility. According to Taiwan's Council for Economic Planning and Development, this should enable 56% of Penghu's energy needs to be met from renewable sources by the end of the five-year programme.

Penghu will also play a major role in Taiwan's efforts to harness ocean energy, a high priority technology for the government and ITRI. The national target is for a 200 MW installed capacity by 2025.

With around 1500 km of coastline and a sub-tropical environment, Taiwan has been investigating two main strands of ocean energy development since 2005, when its National Energy Conference formally decreed it a priority.

One is Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC), in which the country is at the forefront of global research thanks to ITRI's collaboration with Lockheed Martin of the US. The second focus of Taiwan's ocean push is to unlock the considerable potential of the waves and tidal currents around its shores. According to ITRI, studies have shown that the north-east offshore region of Taiwan has a wave energy potential of several hundred megawatts, while the east coast's Kuroshio path and the Pescadores Channel (off Penghu) have tidal current energy that could theoretically be tapped at gigawatt scale.
Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion is described in this Youtube video. Unlike fossil fuels which are environmental poisons, OTEC can have an interesting by-product if you live on a tropical island: fresh water. Wiki notes:
OTEC can also supply quantities of cold water as a by-product . This can be used for air conditioning and refrigeration and the fertile deep ocean water can feed biological technologies. Another by-product is fresh water distilled from the sea.
The article also discusses the state of Taiwan's PV tech producers relative to the market -- the old Taiwan story of being good at producing stuff but not at the service side -- installing, distributing, etc. Between them Taiwan and China control around 60% of the global PV market.

There's a map of Taiwan's wind machines but it locates some things in the wrong places, like the four windmills on Datun 12th Street in Taichung city. Oops.

This paper in Renewable Energy discusses the island's wind power potential. At present about 40% of Taiwan's energy comes from coal, a policy that is insane from both an environmental and energy security policy standpoint.
Daily Links
  • Chinese rag runs article about KMT legislators complaining about Americans getting biased reporting from the Taipei Times.
  • DPP working on cross-strait policies for election and beyond. Can we please stop writing "remarks certain to rankle Beijing." Let Beijing speak for itself; it has Xinhua for that. Quit playing to the propaganda that the DPP provokes Beijing.
  • Banyan at the Economist visits the renovated 2-28 Museum. So far everyone says it's been toned down but not totally whitewashed. Poagao said that much of the old art has been retained. The key thing has been the removal of documents that connect Chiang Kai-shek to the massacre. BTW, Banyan, the original sin of the KMT is being an authoritarian, colonialist party. Everything else, including 2-28, flows from that.
  • China Reform Monitor notes (Russia has a Jewish Autonomous Region??):
    Russia’s Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports that China is “investing far greater funds in Russia's Far East than the Russian Government” and called the imbalance “Beijing’s clear state policy to assimilate new territories.” The newspaper cites an official Xinhua press report on investment in the Russian Far East claiming that Chinese investors have established 34 special Chinese economic zones in Russia’s Amur Oblast, Maritime Kray, Khabarovsk Kray, and the Jewish Autonomous Region, where they have invested a total of $3 billion mostly in resource extraction. Chinese entrepreneurs also hope to open industrial and agricultural zones in Russia, including processing zones, stock raising, construction, timber cutting, and wholesale markets. To oversee the construction and development of China’s industrial and agricultural zones in Russia, the Heilongjiang provincial administration has created a special leading group. The Russian paper reported that in 2011, Moscow’s total transfers to these regions' – $170 million for Amur Oblast, $74 million for the Jewish Autonomous Region, $234 million for Khabarovsk Kray, and $344 million for Maritime Kray – are under one third China’s investment.
  • Blacked Out Korea -- yes, a site dedicated to photos of Koreans blacked out from being blind drunk in public places.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.


Robert Scott Kelly said...

Michael, that Renewable Energy paper cost US$35 to download and also just clicking on the link made my browser crash.

Dixteel said...

This is very interesting.

David on Formosa said...

Michael, I wonder if you also read this article which was in the Taipei Times today. It talks about how the EPA is spending money on embedded marketing to promote its environmental education and energy conservation efforts. However, if they allow the Kuokuang petrochemical plant to go ahead this will negate any energy savings that might have been achieved.

I don't know if the article you quoted was "embedded marketing" by the EPA, however it deserves some critical analysis.

Ocean thermal gradients, ocean currents and wave power are all in the early testing stages. They have yet to be proven on a commercial scale. At best large scale electricity generation using these sources might be available in 20 years.

Wind and solar power are at more advanced stages of development. However, there are still issues with intermittency that are not even mentioned in the article.

It would be nice if Taiwan and the world's energy crisis could be solved by simply putting up a few windmills and slapping a few solar panels on the roof. However, the problem is of a greater order of magnitude and complexity than that.

The current government thinking on energy (and it doesn't matter whether its DPP or KMT, Republican or Democrat) is simply a business as usual approach. That is to continue the development of energy intensive industries while making a few token efforts at developing renewable energy. Unfortunately the latter serves as little more than window dressing to assuage the masses.

Even if governments and industry fully acknowledged the problem and started genuine efforts to solve it, there would be no easy ride to a green energy future. It is a problem that we must solve, however cornucopians and techno-fantasists promoting false promises aren't going to help solve it.

To gain an understanding of the choices we have regarding energy and the advantages and disadvantages of different energy sources Richard Heinberg's "Searching for a Miracle" provides and excellent overview. The pdf is available for free download. A more optimistic assessment is provided in two papers just published by Delucchi and Jacobson in Energy Policy titled "Providing all global energy with wind, water, and solar power" parts one and two (based on an earlier article published in Scientific American in 2009).

Anonymous said...

I read the Economist piece on the 228 museum's reopening and the first few comments make a much better case than I ever could on why basing Taiwan's case for independence on the 228 tragedy is weak and whimsical. Whatever the circumstances, China would have claimed for Taiwan simply because Japan took it from China after defeating them in a war.
CKS wasn't the best of leaders or rulers, but his KMT rule was by far better than if the CCP had gotten Taiwan.


Anonymous said...

Let's not be too hard on Banyan. He/she tries for balance and there are enough references to atrocity to irritate those who think 228 is something best not talked about. But the key to this story, which Banyan didn't do enough research to establish, is not the "closing for renovation" but the original purging of the 228 museum's Taiwanese management by Taipei mayor Ma Ying-jeou's cultural revisionist, Long Ying-tai. From that point on, the museum has been under the control of people whose political sympathies lie with the ideology - if not always the techniques - of the aggressors, and that's why the present situation remains a disgrace.

Okami said...

The problem with wind power is one of logistics. If the wind stops blowing or blows to fast, you lose all power generation from wind mills. This is normally taken care of with gas turbine generators which is the main reason in the US for building windmill farms. You also need to step up the and join together each windmill's power generation into something that can be moved over long distances. There's also a maintenance issue as most of these are placed at or near the sea and sea water is corrosive and damaging to metal parts. Then there's the environmental impact of the windmills working as food processors to birds and bats. It's also expensive and distorting, even after heavy subsidies. You think after the ongoing ethanol scam and it's worldwide impact the environmental groups would realize some of the 2nd and 3rd degrees of consequences of their chosen policies, but as with most cults that's just not the case.

Tidal power is interesting but then you get into the problem that sea water is corrosive and things will grow on them just like they grow on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. Not a big deal with oil rigs since they are stationary and temporary structures, but with a power generation unit you face the same problem of blackouts and brown outs when you don't have enough power generation like what happened in South Africa and what will happen in the UK with current forecast of power needs.

While I can't say that I'm a big fan of coal or nuclear power outside of cheap electric to power my AC, computers, lights, fridge, hot water heater, TV and my internet so I can read this blog, It is cheap and a well understood technology that is most importantly cost effective. The problem with green tech is it's often horribly polluting initially, expensive, and has consequences that when you bring them up are casually ignored by it's supporters.

I'm waiting for when people are forced to generate their own power at home through pedal power.

Hans said...

That Black Out Korea blog is very interesting. I had no idea that's such a prevalent phenomena in Korea. From the comments, that blog is taking a lot of heat from the Korean nationalists...

How would you compare the black out Koreans to some of the behaviors in Taiwan?

Michael Turton said...

weak and whimsical

Anon, nobody bases the case for independence on 2-28.

Michael Turton said...

Then there's the environmental impact of the windmills working as food processors to birds and bats. It's also expensive and distorting, even after heavy subsidies.

Okami, coal kills far more birds than wind, any way you cut it. Wind only kills a few birds at the windmill site itself. Coal plants kill millions, directly from exhaust, and then directly again through poisons such as mercury and coal ash, and indirectly through habitat destruction and global warming. Ditto for oil. Wind kills far far far less.

As for subsidies, fossil fuels are massively subsidized (see War, Middle East). Wind is receives much smaller subsidies.

The problem of low wind times can be compensated for by building more windmills and of course, conservation. A small island like Taiwan, with some imagination, could easily be run entirely on non-CO2 energy.

Anonymous said...

The Korea blog is not cool. I guess loser English teachers need to feel good about themselves somehow.

Michael Turton said...

David, that paper is excellent. And the problems it raises for wind are problems of policy, not concrete reality. Upgrading and retooling the electricity grid is a policy decision that's been discussed since the early 1990s but has not been carried out, fossil fuel lobby in the US has been fighting redeployment away from fossil fuel. There is absolutely no reason why wind could not produce abundant cheap electric power for the US, except policy inertia (ok, so wind coverage is not so good in the southeastern United States).

The major issues will be developing the other infrastructure of an all electric economy and massive conservation -- but that too lies in the area of public policy and fundamental cultural change. Since its been that way for 30 years now, I don't expect any changes in the US, and am extremely pessimistic about the world we are leaving my children.


Anonymous said...

Fair enough, maybe not independence, but the case that the KMT was a colonialist(sic) party akin to a foreign occupier [they were taking back national territory that was ceded after defeat in war, albeit by a different government], which ironically the very people who they took it back from were. I don't condone it, and many people did lose their lives. However, it wasn't a systematic massacre or genocide, and at that time, the KMT was still the legitimate government of China. If the CCP had decisively won by that time, they would have then been the ones to receive Taiwan and who knows how that could have turned out.

Regardless, I think some of those comments make very good arguments in looking at the 228 tragedy in perspective.


Dixteel said...


you really need to read more about 228 before you can judge intelligently what 228 means to Taiwanese and others. The 228 museum is but a show piece of KMT, and the Economist cannot be trusted for non-economic matter (Trust me, the Economist really sounds like an idiot sometimes when it is talking about things unrelated to economy).

Marc said...

Re energy alternatives: You can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs

Dixteel said...

For me personally though I don't really look at renewable energy as green and environmental friendliness. Sure, they can reduce carbon and other gas output, and has produce no radio active waste etc, which will make Taiwan cleaner, but what the real benefits for Taiwan is the less reliance on oil and gas.

Taiwan is an island with no oil and gas, but it has abundance of sun, wind, and ocean. So heck, why not use them? It really is a no brainer.

Of course, for those that are in this field, they should reduce environmental imfact etc as well. For example, find a way to reduce the wind mill killing birds.

Michael Turton said...

The "wind turbines kill birds" is another bit of propaganda from the Coal crowd.

Wind Turbines Don’t Kill Birds; Coal Plants Do
Written by Susan Kraemer
Published on October 28th, 2009

While it may not be news to cleantechnica readers that climate change will kill more members of more species than wind turbines, it is interesting to see the actual figures comparing bird loss from climate change versus from wind turbines.
A very detailed and complex study (pdf) Increasing Wind Energy’s Contribution to the US Electricity Supply weighing the costs and benefits of increasing wind power to 20% by 2030 included some very interesting projections on bird extinction numbers expected from climate change.
The study found at least 950 entire species of terrestrial birds that will be threatened with extinction as a result of climate change under several scenarios, even at the lower estimate of temperature gains, just counting species of non-sea birds in the higher latitudes; outside the tropics.

Species of birds inside the tropics will additionally decline from continued deforestation, which in turn, further exacerbates global climate change and results in land conversion, which further threatens habitat more directly. The combined total would be 1,800 species lost. (Jetz, Wilcove, and Dobson 2007).
A study from the National Research Council last year tallied bird kills from total anthropogenic bird deaths, and found collisions with wind turbines comprised a minute fraction of human interaction bird deaths. Only 3 out of 100,000 anthropogenic bird deaths were from turbines. Cats and buildings had a far higher kill rate.

Nevertheless The Heartland Institute, a well known climate change denier group puts out regular bulletins keeping the idea alive that wind farms are bird killing machines. Their claim that Altamont Pass kills 4,700 birds a year is wildly at odds with both the original NREL counts (pg 22) and the Defenders of Wildlife count of 96 tallied at the now obsolete small turbines built in the 70’s, the worlds oldest and deadliest wind farm.

However, even the if we go with the Exxon-funded group’s figure; the death of individual birds is quite different from the extinction of entire species of birds.

In the meantime we generate over 2 billion metric tons annually from fossil fueled electricity.
As for the new objection that building wind turbines generates CO2, the study found:

“Manufacturing wind turbines and building wind plants together generate only minimal amounts of CO2 emissions. One university study that examined the issue (White and Kulsinski 1998) found that when these emissions are analyzed on a life-cycle basis, wind energy’s CO2 emissions are extremely low—about 1% of those from coal, or 2% of those from natural gas, per unit of electricity generated.”

See also:
How Stuff Works

Anonymous said...

I do wonder though how the noise of offshore wind-turbines might affect animals with very sensitive hearing, such as the Formosan Dolphin. Especially since the first offshore plant looks like it's going to be off the coast of Changhwa.