Taiwan wind boom expected

Wind development in Taiwan is expected to take off big time in coming months after state owned utility Taipower committed to buying a minimum volume of green power at a minimum price, as requested by the Taiwan government. The commitment, due to take effect shortly, is an interim measure to promote green energy until the national Renewable Energy Act is cleared by Congress -- expected to happen this month.

Under the interim measure, Taipower will buy 300 MW of renewable energy at a fixed T$2/kWh ($0.06/kWh) for ten years. After that period the price can be renegotiated, but the utility is obliged to buy electricity for the life of the power plant.

Similar conditions are proposed in the Renewable Energy Bill being debated in Congress. The purchase price could be higher in the final law. Wind developers also hope the law will simplify the capital subsidy framework. Today, the government can provide 50% capital subsidies for wind projects up to 3.6 MW, but the actual subsidy level is decided on a case-by-case basis. The new law is expected to rule on a fixed level of support and define which project costs are eligible for subsidy.

Huang Wu of Taiwan's Energy Commission, part of the economics ministry, expects project developers to respond keenly to Taipower's new measure, suggesting that proposals for around 100 MW of wind can be expected in the near future. This will significantly increase the country's wind capacity from the current 8 MW from three projects: four Enercon 600 kW machines, two Vestas 1.75 MW turbines, and four Vestas 660 kW turbines.

With the Energy Commission estimating potential for around 1000 MW of wind capacity on land and another 500 MW offshore in Taiwan, Huang Wu says there is growing interest being shown in Taiwan by foreign wind developers. Germany's Infravest recently won approval to construct the first of four wind farms it plans in the county with a total capacity of around 80 MW (Windpower Monthly, October 2003). In addition, speculation is rising that Taipower will get directly involved in wind development.

Pledging to create a nuclear-free Taiwan, the government is aiming for 12% of power from renewables by 2020, up from today's 0.7%. Taiwan imports about 97% of its electricity requirement.