Development set to pick up pace -- Taiwan nears 200 MW

Installed wind capacity in Taiwan grew by 90 MW for the second year running last year, bringing the island's total to 193.7 MW from 13 wind farms by the end of 2006. The pace of development is set to increase -- at least a further 800 MW of new capacity is expected to be installed by 2010, says Wen-Jyh Yan of the Taiwan Wind Energy Association. Even so, the island looks set to fall far short of its target, set in 2004, for 2159 MW of wind capacity by 2010.

The target expects wind to deliver 80% of the renewables capacity required to achieve the Taiwanese government's goal of 10% green power by 2010. "It is difficult to achieve the goal, judging by the present conditions," says Yan, who is also director of the Wind & Solar Thermal Laboratory at the International Technology Research Institute (ITRI), entrusted by the government to provide consultation on energy planning.

The government's existing renewable energy support program, established in 2004, provides a number of incentives covering areas such as financing, taxation, and land use, but the main concern of potential project developers is whether the fixed purchase price for wind power is enough to make projects viable, says Yan. Public utility Taipower has pledged to pay NT$2/kWh (EUR 0.06/kWh) for the first 15 years of a wind farm's operation.

Currency fluctuations

While this rate has been fine for projects until now, Yan notes the wind resources at the remaining sites available for new wind projects are not as good as those for earlier projects. Furthermore, currency fluctuations and the appreciation of the euro are having a negative impact on equipment procurement.

Help could be at hand in the form of a renewable energy development regulation. A draft of the regulation calls for the rate to be reviewed every three years, says Yan. Although a timetable for implementing the new regulation is yet to be set, if adopted, and assuming the rate is revised upwards accordingly, Taiwan could see more wind developers enter the market, says Yan.

So far just four companies have developed wind projects in Taiwan. Three are local companies -- Tien-Lung Paper Company, Taiwan Plastic Company, and public utility Taipower -- while the other is Germany's InfraVest Wind Power Group, which entered the market in 2000 as the first wind farm developer in Taiwan. Since then Taipower has become the main developer, installing the entire 92 MW that went up last year.

The 46, 2 MW turbines, from three suppliers, were spread across four wind farms. Vestas machines were used for the 46 MW Changhua wind farm, Taiwan's largest wind development to date, while Zephyros units from the Netherlands were installed at a 26 MW project in the Taichung harbour area and an 8 MW project at Taipower's Taichung power plant. Six Gamesa turbines make up Taipower's Sinchu Siangshan wind farm, although one unit was decommissioned later in the year after it caught fire.

Utility dominates

Taipower is expected to develop at least 340 MW of the 800 MW of new wind capacity expected by 2010. This is reported to include around 200 turbines destined for Taiwan Island and Penghu Island. Furthermore, the utility plans to install 546 additional wind turbines totalling 1980 MW between 2010 and 2020 in shallow waters off Taiwan's west coast and Penghu. The bulk of these will be installed ten to 15 kilometres off the coast of Changhua and Yunlin counties, while 176 units will be installed in the waters near Penghu. Infravest, meanwhile, has plans for around 300 MW in Taiwan.

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