Solar Power in Taiwan- What's happening?


#21

HH2: yes, that’s a good point. Just the fact that the demand is there probably did have a big effect on price and R&D investment.


#22

[quote=“headhonchoII”]I don’t agree with the theory that Germany’s enthusiasm for solar panels has reduced supply in tropical countries, in fact it should have the complete opposite effect, causing factories to ramp up capacity , attracting large investments and bringing the cost of panels down, and in fact this is what happened, to such a degree that there is worldwide over capacity at present.

In fact if there is a textbook case where subsidies have worked to bring down costs per unit for a specific product, it would be solar (or wind) power!

The same can happen with electric vehicles with a combination of subsidies and increased investment, costs for batteries are expected to halve in ten years. When costs plummet for both solar panels and electric batteries, now you have a technological system that starts to make a lot of sense. The best way to reduce costs is simply to expand industrial capacity.

Solar power should be more useful in tropical countries, but it’s no use at all if people can’t afford to purchase panels in the first place or if governments are corrupt and they favour other energy sources for their own reasons.[/quote]

Yes, you’re right. Eventually world supply did catch up with demand.


#23

For the ones who say that electric motorcycles aren’t good and they don’t have enough power… zeromotorcycles.com/

If I had to buy a motorcycle to run around Taipei, I’d buy an electric one.


#24

So whats the price on one of those? Last I saw an electric scooter it cost close to 100,000nt. You can buy a used gas scooter for 10,000.


#25

Face it: very few people in Taiwan care enough about the environment to do anything; hence the heavy pollution nearly everywhere and the total lack of interest in the issue by the majority of people. Shit, the food and drinks here are toxic and there are thousands of people eat steaming hot food out of plastic bags with chemically-altered chopsticks every second of the day. Nobody cares! Give me my fried chicken steak and stop thinking too much!


#26

I’ve seen those before. Nice stuff. Unfortunately, they’re effectively excluded from the Taiwan market (AFAIK the gov’t rebate applies only to locally-manufactured scooters, and presumably American ones are also taxed on import) because they’d show up the majority of Taiwanese products for the chabuduo shite that they are.

Incidentally, Taiwan still has export zones where hi-tech products are exempt from taxation as long as they leave the country. Many of the “green” products are made in these zones, because the manufacturers know there is no local market for them - and those locals who do want to buy them have to pay more than foreigners :loco:

You can get a good electric scooter for exactly the same price as a good gasoline one - about 65K, after you claim the gov’t handout. Comparing brand spanking new technology with a second-hand bag of bolts isn’t exactly fair, is it? But yeah … the Zero bikes are around 400K … about twice the price of a gasoline model of similar spec.


#27

Yes, they are more expensive, but the upkeep of an electric bike is much, much cheaper than the gasoline ones, they are sturdier, and the energy cost is lower too. I know importing vehicles is tricky, but what about importing from Hong Kong? Those bikes are sold there :slight_smile:

I don’t mind to pay more if the product is good, but I don’t want to be robbed at customs, either.


#28

i have seen a few solar “farms” here, but its, as expected, small and fairly inefficient. if solar is to be used here i think using it on top of already used space, like buildings, instead of using up precious dirt for low efficiency panels.

I still have not heard any good reasons why Taiwan has not embraced geo thermal. Tidal i would think would be good here, but maybe the weather is too rough? Taiwan is pretty much the IDEAL test plot for better energy sourcing. they already spend teh money on otehr stuff, so that shouldnt be any kind of bottleneck.


#29

Yeah one would think solar and geothermal are the way to go. I have my doubts about wind on mainland Taiwan and they have probably maxed out the coast now. They would need to think about have wind farms in the strait. Tidal works in wide bays, I’ve not heard of a tidal system that can handle rough deep seas with fast currents and typhoons like the East coast.

Solar power in Taiwan would seem to make sense on an individual householder basis, but it’s my impression that there is a lot of degraded dryland in the South east coastal strip of the island that would probably be better used for solar than anything else.


#30

Why no Tidal power?
-Because the ocean is a highly corrosive violent force of nature and laughs at your petty attempts to harvest it’s energy bounty.

Why no Solar Power in Taiwan?
-Typhoons. It takes years for it to pay off then the necessary maintenance isn’t cheap either and one good Typhoon and the whole investment goes down the shitter.

Why no Geo thermal power?
-Caused earthquakes for the Swiss who shut it down in their country. We have actual earthquakes and an unstable geography and you think anyone would build a power plant for geo-thermal in Taiwan. You are a very funny man.


#31

Probably true. The engineering challenges are difficult enough to make it economically and practically unsound.

Typhoons in Taiwan are not particularly violent. There are solar installations all over the country (on rooftops large and small) and nobody appears to have lost any yet. You might get unlucky and lose a panel or two to flying debris. That’s all.

Certainly a poorly-secured panel will fly away. The answer to that is to secure it properly.

I’m not sure if geothermal plants necessarily cause earthquakes - it depends how it’s done. But geothermal is not as simple as people think, and it’s most useful only if you have consumers nearby who can use heat directly.

Nevertheless, there is still zero excuse for not using solar, and wind would be a useful supplement even if not a sensible primary source.


#32

The hotsprings in Beitou are already geothermal.


#33

@Finley

The problem with typhoons is that it doesn’t take much damage to make the project unviable. Large fields of expensive glass solar panels susceptible to earthquakes and typhoons just seems like a poor financial decision versus coal fired plants with good scrubbers. The foot print is smaller and the best part is poor people have access to cheap reliable power. Those solar powered water heaters cost a lot from what I’ve heard

Wind is even more of a snafu. A bat and bird cuisinart is a more apt title due to the irregularity of supply and the small amounts generated that need to be collected and ran through transformers to make it viable for transport over long distances. People aren’t exactly beating down the doors to live near the coast. They also suffer from poor maintenance and short lifespans due to being near the ocean with all that wonderful salty air.

The biggest problem with wind, solar and other renewable sources is the higher cost of energy that the consumer must pay. It sounds like a really good idea till you have to work with no AC at all during the summer. Where even ice would be a luxury in summer. No thank you, I don’t hate my fellow man that much. I’m almost not keen on people burning dirty oil generators or whatever else to get enough cheap power to circumvent any restrictions.


#34

[quote=“Pingdong”]I have seen a few solar “farms” here, but its, as expected, small and fairly inefficient. if solar is to be used here I think using it on top of already used space, like buildings, instead of using up precious dirt for low efficiency panels.

I still have not heard any good reasons why Taiwan has not embraced geo thermal. Tidal I would think would be good here, but maybe the weather is too rough? Taiwan is pretty much the IDEAL test plot for better energy sourcing. they already spend teh money on otehr stuff, so that shouldnt be any kind of bottleneck.[/quote]

There was a geothermal plant near Heping that ran for about a decades I think. Was shut down as the gov decided nuclear was the future.

There is no evidence that earthquakes or typhoons are the reason the government has not embraced renewables since they have had no problem putting nuclear power plants on fault lines and in tsunami prone regions.


#35

Okami: I’m afraid you’re regurgitating myths here, or at best outdated information. Ten years ago I might have agreed that solar was still too expensive. This is no longer the case. The current price is US$0.8/W for photovoltaic panels (aSi thin-film), which implies ~US$0.05/kWh for unstored solar electricity; or twice that with 24-hour storage costed in. Thermal solar is slightly cheaper, depending on the implementation. By comparison, in Europe electricity currently retails at about US$0.30, and heating oil at US$0.20. If you have different figures, let’s see them.

Not at all. Solar plants are designed with a certain amount of damage allowed for in the finances. PV panels are subjected to a lot of thermal stress, and a certain fraction delaminate over time. The daily hot-cold cycle is a far bigger factor in panel failure than the occasional airborne neon sign. Besides, 50% of the cost of a solar installation is mechanical and infrastructure, batteries, control electronics, and land.

And power stations are not “susceptible to earthquakes?”. Earthquake engineering has a cost, that’s all. It’s not a show-stopper.

Nope. All things considered (remember a power station doesn’t stand alone - it has support buildings and other industries/infrastructure that keep it running, not least the fuel supply) it’s in the same ballpark. Example: a 2GW(th) nuclear power station occupies about 5km2, including its safety exclusion zone, or about 2800kWh/m2/year. Annual insolation in a sunny country like Taiwan is about 1500kWh/m2/year. Ta-dah!

OK, fine, I cheated. The nuclear power station is much more efficient at turning heat into electrical energy: about 50%, compared to 7-20% for solar. You also have to space the panels out to avoid shadowing. The net result is that a solar power station has a footprint roughly ten times bigger than an equivalent nuclear power station.

But so what? There are two obvious solutions to this. One, we could reduce our energy consumption by 90%. I don’t believe there is any technical impediment to doing that (and no, it wouldn’t send us “back to the stone age”). Two, we could make better use of thermal energy, which can be collected at 70-80% efficiency. A lot of the time, we use electricity just because it’s there; but many applications (including energy-guzzling climate control) would work fine with low-grade heat input instead. Also, solar can be distributed - in fact, it’s the best way to do it. That considerably reduces the land requirement, by shifting it into places with multiple functions (eg., rooftops) or with no other useful application (eg., small areas of degraded land).

“What you’ve heard” is wrong. The current price for solar thermal collectors is about US$200/m2, or US$0.01/kWh assuming a 15-year system lifetime. That’s just for the tubes; you also need plumbing and tanks, and in a building-sized installation, that would increase the cost to about $0.02 or $0.03/kWh. The current problem with solar thermal is (a) installers are selling cheap shit at outrageous markups to individual consumers who don’t know any better and (b) it’s much more economical to design and build an apartment block or community with the kit pre-installed than to retrofit into one apartment, or one house.

Yes, I’m not a big fan (I crack myself up :roflmao: ) of wind power. It has its place - for load-balancing and diversity - but that’s all.

See above. The reason costs appear high is because TPTB are trying to shoehorn renewable generation into a distribution system that was designed specifically for always-on point sources. Renewables are inherently distributed, and they require demand billing systems and intelligent power management; with those systems in place, its easy to show that solar is now cheaper (on the average) than coal, oil or nuclear.

Why on earth would that happen? Solar energy would be “too cheap to meter” in summer. Let’s stick to facts instead of hysterical handwaving, please.


#36

Good post, finley. People also don’t seem to realize that large parts of the west are barely affected by typhoons each year because of the mountains.

And Taiwan has the land for concentrated solar thermal plants, or panel installations. Lots of flat land just sitting their unused on the west coast. Just fallow farmland alone accounts for some 300,000 hectares.

I would like to see Satelitte TV’s response too to the notion that rooftop installations are going to blow off in every typhoon. :laughing:


#37

Is that right? That’s just astounding. As either organic farmland or solar “farms”, you should be looking at gross income of NT$0.3-1.0m/ha/year, or net profits of around NT$100K/ha/year. The implication is that the country is throwing away NT$30 billion a year due to pure short-sightedness and incompetence. In terms of energy, 300,000ha of PV panels could deliver 150terawatt-hours of electricity: equivalent to 20 nuclear power stations. OK, you wouldn’t want to actually do that (or install solar generation in that manner) but it does show what’s possible.

I suspect the basic reason that nothing is being done with solar is that the average politican has got his “facts” from the same source as Okami.


#38

Yep, 200-300,000 hectares is widely reported.

Commonwealth has the figures and a graph:
english.cw.com.tw/print.do?action=print&id=10208


#39

Thanks for the article link, MM. It confirms what I’d suspected: farmland is not exactly “fallow”, it’s being turned into carparks for the SUVs of the nouveau riches. What’s so desperately sad about this state of affairs is that deregulation could have been a good thing. If the requirement to farm the land had remained, Taiwan could have become a nation of high-tech market gardeners selling top-quality produce locally and to the world. Instead of that, we’ve got a load of unproductive concrete. Taiwan up!

Mods: I realise this is completely OT - you may wish to split into a discussion of (say) Taiwan’s land policy?


#40

Is that right? That’s just astounding. As either organic farmland or solar “farms”, you should be looking at gross income of NT$0.3-1.0m/ha/year, or net profits of around NT$100K/ha/year. The implication is that the country is throwing away NT$30 billion a year due to pure short-sightedness and incompetence. In terms of energy, 300,000ha of PV panels could deliver 150terawatt-hours of electricity: equivalent to 20 nuclear power stations. OK, you wouldn’t want to actually do that (or install solar generation in that manner) but it does show what’s possible.

I suspect the basic reason that nothing is being done with solar is that the average politican has got his “facts” from the same source as Okami.[/quote]

The regulations regarding subsidies for fallow land have changed recently, now they are promoting full production on farms once more.

I think a lot of people have not driven much around the Central West down to South West coast- the coastal strip from Taichung down to Tainan. If one does you will find that large areas are simply fallow or have been severely damaged by fish farming, which causes flooding by lowering the water table and subsequent land subsidence. The land also becomes salty by the lowered water table which, along with its already coastal location and exposure to typhoons, makes it very poor farmland. But guess what, the sun shines pretty much all year round!

In fact the government has been trying to close down all these illegal groundwater wells, one of the main reasons is that it was causing the high speeed rail line to sink also!

You will pass through poor villages and dead end towns with dead end farms. It can be very depressing.

So instead of incentivising farmers to damage the environment with fish, shrimp and oyster farms, why not build solar plants on the land instead? You are still harvesting the power of the sun, but in a more efficient manner that doesn’t damage the land and suck up scarce groundwater.

These are not the only areas that are lying fallow. If you follow this coastal strip you will also encounter at least one barely occupied ‘science park’ in each county. They have acres and acres of land sitting there doing…nothing…that will never be occupied unless a local legislator manages to shoehorn in another chemical factory when nobody is looking. Again, why not use that for solar farms?