Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Taiwan and Renewables at JapanFocus

JapanFocus has an excellent piece on Taiwan's energy situation in int'l comparison.... and some good points about the silliness of objections to renewables:
To illustrate our proposition, let us suppose that the Taiwan government said today that the entire nuclear power fleet would be phased out over five years, and would be replaced by a series of concentrated solar power (CSP) plants, rooftop solar PV, and wind power. The scare stories are that this would cover Taiwan in photovoltaic cells and wind turbines; that it would be prohibitively expensive; and that it would be unreliable since power could be generated only when the sun shines or the wind blows. All these claims are false. The reality is that just a few mirror farms using molten salt technology as heat sink would be needed, taking advantage of the fact that China is now committed to CSP and will be driving down the costs. (See our article on CSP (co-authored with Ching-Yan Wu) at Japan Focus here) The land area needed in Taiwan would be no more than 62.5 square km (a square of sides less than 8 km) – which is as nothing when compared with Taiwan’s land area of 32,260 km2, and comparable to the land currently devoted to Taiwan’s advanced science and technology parks. The Hsinchu park totals 650 hectares; the Central Taiwan park 1400 hectares; the southern Taiwan park 1608 hectares – totalling 3900 ha or 39 km2. CSP plants generating half the entire nuclear output would occupy an area only marginally larger than this – and generate power 24/7 in a way that is infinitely more reliable and safer than the current nuclear facilities. And – this is the central point – this would catapult Taiwan into a world-leading position as supplier of CSP key technologies and equipment while creating domestic job opportunities as well. Such a strategy would also facilitate Taiwan’s urgent need for industrial transformation from a lower to higher value-added innovator. 
The world needs to get down to zero carbon within the next two decades, especially major polluters like the US, China, and Taiwan, if we're to have any hope of containing the coming climate disaster.
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David said...

It is good to see some numbers on land area required for renewable energy in Taiwan. However, I think it is optimistic to think that land could be easily acquired on this scale. There is already considerable conflict over the acquisition of land for so-called "science parks". It is also important to remember that land acquisitions would also have negative impacts on Taiwan's agricultural production and undermine food security.

The conflict over the wind farm in Miaoli is related to the turbines being located too close to residences. If a buffer of 500 to 800 metres were applied to wind farms then this would mean Taiwan's potential for development of wind power is not as great as it seems.

I am all in favour of renewable energy, but there are major obstacles to its development in Taiwan compared with places like Australia or the USA.

Michael Turton said...

David, the conflict over the wind turbines is related to something else. I am still working on proving it.

Land for turbines or other renewable energy projects will have zero impact on Taiwan's food security. There are thousands of hectares out of production due to Taiwan's agreements with the US on rice imports and other factors. Land for renewables constitutes a tiny tiny fraction of that.

Moreover, land conflicts for the science parks are partly disguised conflicts over access to water, an issue that does not occur with turbines.

I agree that it will be difficult to acquire land on the scale required, even though it is not large. As the Miaoli stupidity shows, protests are easily summoned over the flimsiest of bullshit.


Mike Fagan said...

The use of molten salts (or ammonia) does appear to be a big step forward for solar thermal; 15 hours of storage would allow the array to keep supplying electricity 24/7 so long as the weather remains conducive. The old joke that solar power can't be introduced overnight can then be retired. But 15 hours of storage is still not quite the same as a spinning reserve from a fossil fuel plant.

One thing the cheerleaders who wrote that article seem to have neglected in their enthusiasm (unless I've missed it) is that the cost reductions in solar power should make competition among manufacturers more intense and therefore ensure the industry remains low-margin. That spells subsidies.

Assuming improvements in other tech (esp in air conditioners and washing machines) will further complement the use of solar PV over grid, particularly in countryside areas where power lines are more vulnerable to damage, then it might be that grid reliance for residential use will rapidly decline.