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Focus group discussion on the ground-mounted solar panels ecology issue in Hualien, Taiwan

Date: 19th November 2020

Venue: College of Environmental Studies, National Dong Hwa University

This meeting was a focus group discussion session with non-profit organization as stakeholders. Environment-related NGOs who are concerned and engaged in the ground-mounted solar panels issues are invited to work with ecological researchers to focus on the development of ground-mounted solar panels in Hualien. The main ecological issues and indicator species of the platform will be considered as the foundation for future ecological research and model establishment, also as the basis for the discussion of the follow-up series.

During the discussion, the representatives of NGOs repeated that they are not blindly opposed to solar panels, and many disputes are caused by information irregularity. For example, what is the target volume for energy transition governance in Hualien? Have we conducted survey on the potential sites for solar panel installation? Instead of letting the solar panel companies blindly survey for the land. Once the site is confirmed, the next step is to think about how the development of renewable energy can achieve harmony with the local farming and fishing villages in the aspect of sustainable local creation and ecological conservation. Landscape conservation is another issue about solar panel development in the Eastern Taiwan. As the development in this area is relatively little compared to the Western Taiwan, many natural landscapes have great tourism potential. We can refer the case studies from Europe and Japan; utilize the layers of GIS spatial analysis to understand the current situation and future planning of the site before site selection. This is to reduce the visual impact of the solar panel thereby reducing the landscape transformation of the coast and the rift valley farmland.

Another point of discussion at the meeting was on the development of a large-scale model conducted by CIRES. Indicator species is required to examine the impact of their movement pattern caused by the development of solar panel power plants. Ring-necked pheasant and crested oriole are the preliminary choices. The ring-necked pheasants are not only that they are large enough and easier to operate for experiments, but more importantly, their living environments are grasslands, farmlands and woods, which are the construction sites of solar power plants in Hualien and Taitung. Crested orioles live in dense forests; if the solar power plant is built in forest plantation, the plant will inevitably affect their migration patterns. Moreover, the crested oriole has a significant appearance; it is easy to get the attention among public if the bird species being threatened by the external factors.

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