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Current Situation and Planning of Solar Panels Installations in East Rift Valley—Official Interview

Date: 28th September 2020

Venue: Taipower Company, Hualien Sales Office

Interviewees: Yao-min Wu (Director), Yun-Xiang Qiu (Deputy Director), and Ren-An Chen (Design Division Head)

The solar panel development in Taiwan show greatly significance to its power demand and energy transformation. Especially in the Eastern Taiwan where this area relies on power transmission from the South and West regions to meet the electricity demands. Will solar panels solve the self-sufficiency issue for Hualien and Taitung area in the future? We visited the Hualien Sales Office of Taipower Company to understand the issues related to solar panels installations in the East Rift Valley such as current situation of electricity supply and demand in Hualien, sites set up application for ground-mounted solar panels, their views on environmental and social inspection mechanisms, along with the future planning of electric power installation in the above-mentioned areas.

Judging from the data in 2019, the electricity consumption in Hualien is 2.44 billion kWh, but the power generation is only 660 million kWh. The number of applications for the solar panels was low until the year 2018 with slight improvement. At present, the capacity of ground-type and rooftop-type solar panels power generation is 0.3GW. At present, Hualien Tourism Bureau is currently handling the medium-to-large scale ground-mounted solar panels application as it involves agricultural land use. However, the review progress is unclear as the government needs to consider the trade-off between tourism and economy. Currently there are 21 large scale ground-mounted solar panels projects being processed, with the capacity of 5.8GW, which meets the electricity demand of Hualien and Taitung area, and even to send the remaining to the Western Taiwan. Thus, from a policy perspective, Taipower looks forward to seeing the complete installation of solar panels in the Eastern Taiwan. It is recommended to develop large-scale ground-mounted solar panels by setting up special zones, which is beneficial to its power distribution, environmental assessment and centralized management. For Taiwan's situation, this approach is better and more able to achieve policy goals. As for rural areas and islands, the solar micro-grid (decentralized grid) approach can be used, which will be better maintained and low cost than the current method (utility pole).

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