Sun, May 13, 2018 - Page 6 News List

EDITORIAL: Energy storage key to green energy

An auction for offshore wind farm bids concluded on Monday, with contracts going to German and Danish companies.

“We see Taiwan as a stepping stone into the Asia-Pacific,” said Matthias Bausenwein, regional general manager for Denmark’s Orsted.

European “green” energy companies have cited the nation’s strong winds and stable regulatory framework as reasons for expanding in Taiwan, and the nation’s economy and energy production might benefit greatly from these partnerships.

However, increased generation of power from wind farms and solar panels will be for naught if there is no way to store that power. Solar and wind-derived power have historically failed as a sole power solution, because they generate a surplus of power when the sun and wind are strong, and a deficit when they are not.

California resolved to overcome this problem in 2013, when the US state government established the goal of building 1.325 gigawatts of storage by 2020. Electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla answered the call and has constructed massive battery installations in Ontario and Escondido.

The company last year built an even larger facility in southern Australia’s Jamestown, 200km north of Adelaide. The lithium-ion battery can store 100 megawatts and is connected to a wind farm operated by French energy company Neoen.

These battery systems are the largest that have ever been made, but the discrepancy between their capacity and total storage goals clearly indicates that progress must be made with battery technology if worldwide utilities are to switch entirely to green energy.

To get a clearer picture of how far off the numbers are, the government in November last year said that it aims to generate 3 gigawatts of Taiwan’s power needs using solar energy by 2020 — 30 times the storage capacity of Australia’s installation.

If any nation is up to the task of developing new battery technology, it is Taiwan. An April 20, 2016, post on the Japanese technology company Furuno’s Web site revealed that several components of Tesla’s first car, the Roadster, came from Taiwanese companies FUKUTA Electronics and Chroma ATE. It also said the car’s battery came from Taiwanese company E-One Moli Energy Corp, which has also made batteries for BMW.

National Taiwan Normal University professor Chen Chia-chun (陳家俊) in March last year published research on a new aluminum-ion battery that would be cheaper to produce and three times more efficient than lithium-ion batteries.

State-run CPC Corp, Taiwan (CPC) said in February that it is in talks with China Motor Corp to develop its own brand of batteries for electric vehicles. If Chen and other researchers were to work with Taiwanese companies such as CPC and E-One Moli, the potential for developing and marketing advanced battery technology would be great.

Given that the Cabinet in November last year relaxed regulations governing the financial sector to encourage investment in green energy development, and given that green energy is one of President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) five “pillar industries,” it is likely that battery research would be well-funded.

Lots of money is being poured into energy-storage research around the world, with molten salt and hydrogen being touted as examples of potential alternatives to lithium-ion batteries for grid storage.

Taiwan should be at the forefront of this research, not only to meet the nation’s own energy needs, but also to put it on the map in an industry that still has relatively few key players. The implications might even go beyond economic benefits, if Taiwan is able to help poor nations solve their energy problems in ways that China cannot.

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