Wed, Dec 14, 2011 - Page 1 News List

Solar power station opens on Taiping

Staff Writer, with CNA, Taiping Island

The government formally opened a new solar power system on Taiping Island (太平島) in the South China Sea yesterday to cement its sovereignty over the disputed territory and help turn the Spratly Islands (南沙群島) into a “low-carbon area.”

“It wasn’t easy to finish the solar power system in two months and build Taiping into a low-carbon island, as it lies 860 nautical miles [1,592.7km] southwest of Taiwan [proper],” Chang Te-hao (張德浩), director of the Coast Guard Administration’s South Coast Guard Bureau, said at an inauguration ceremony on Taiping.

The 120 kilowatt-peak (kWp) solar power system, built near the island’s cultural park next to an airstrip, will generate an estimated 175,920 kilowatt hours of electricity per year, while saving NT$735,346 (US$24,260) in fuel costs, Chang said. The solar power system will replace 16.8 percent of the electricity currently produced by diesel generators, Chang said, and it will also eliminate 119 tonnes of carbon emissions per year.

The island still relies mainly on diesel generators, but fuel costs and carriage are expensive. Chang said turning Taiping into “Taiwan’s southernmost low-carbon island” shows the government’s determination to protect the ecosystem of the Spratly archipelago.

“The efforts also mark Taiwan’s role in the global village and its commitment to reducing carbon emissions,” Chang said. “Such a move, I believe, will receive recognition from other countries and it also demonstrates our sovereignty of the Spratly archipelago.”

Days before launching the system, Lee Ching-chi (李景琪), the new head of the coast guard’s Nansha Command on Taiping, said the new solar power plant was “worthy of celebration and a model other countries should follow.”

“We will use it as an example to encourage other countries to follow our footsteps [in conserving energy and protecting the environment],” Lee said.

To further reduce carbon emissions, the coast guard has also installed LED street lights, as well as energy-saving refrigerators, light bulbs, air conditioners and solar water heaters on the island, saving electricity fees of NT$3.99 million a year. The Bureau of Energy invested NT$21.99 million in the solar power system project, according to coast guard officials.

Coast guard officials said the solar power plant’s scale could be expanded in the future based on an increased need for electricity on the island.

Making Taiping a “low-carbon island” was an idea promoted by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) at a South China Sea policy meeting in November last year.

The initiative hopes to cement Taiwan’s sovereignty in the area by focusing on scientific research and environmental protection.

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