Fri, Aug 09, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Energy bureau finally heeding warnings on wind turbines: group

By Chang Hsun-teng, Peng Chien-li and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

Three wind turbines spin on Monday in Miaoli County.

Photo: Peng Chien-li, Taipei Times

Safety issues concerning the wind turbines installed in Miaoli County have finally gotten the attention of the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ (MOEA) Bureau of Energy, a local self-help organization said.

Yuanli Self-Help Group spokesperson Chen Hui-ming (陳薈茗) said this was the first time in the 11 months since the group began protesting the government’s decision to set up the turbines in the county’s Yuanli Township (苑裡) that the bureau is taking its suggestions into consideration.

The group has opposed the installation of the wind turbines along the township’s coast since September last year on the grounds that the short distance between turbines and their proximity to residences was unsafe.

The turbines were installed by InfraVest Wind Power Group, a German company.

Chen said the group’s opposition to the project was not groundless, adding that it had visited Greater Taichung’s Dachia District (大甲) and Miaoli’s Houlong Township (後龍) to learn about the dangers of wind turbines first-hand.

“We called for the turbines to be kept a safe distance away from residential areas, specifically because we do not want a repeat of what happened in Houlong,” Chen said, referring to an incident five years ago when a propeller blade broke off from a turbine and landed in a nearby field.

The high-frequency volume the turbines generate will also affect the quality of life of residents living in the area, he added.

Chen said the bureau is now considering banning the installation of any turbines within 110m of residential areas and implementing regulations requiring citizens give their consent if turbines are to be installed within 250m of their homes.

However, Chen said these measure would be insufficient, given that international standards on safety distances range from 400m to 800m. He cited Denmark as an example, saying that turbines there must be at least 400m from residences.

Taiwan should be enacting international standards to better protect public safety and ensure people’s rights, Chen said.

Separately yesterday, the Houlong Township Office said it plans to launch a signature drive to ask the Presidential Office to relocate three wind turbines close to residential areas, fearing a repeat of the 2008 incident when a turbine’s blade broke off.

“The area is a well-known tourist spot and while we were lucky that no serious damage or loss of life occurred five years ago, we may not be so lucky next time,” said Wen kun-chang (翁坤章), president of the Miaoli County Coastal Environmental Development Association.

InfraVest installed four and 21 turbines in Jhunan (竹南) and Houlong townships respectively, which all went into operation in 2006 and contribute to the power grid managed by Taiwan Power Co (Taipower).

Weng said he was not against wind-generated energy, but hoped the turbines would be relocated to a more appropriate location.

“Tourists may think that the turbines are a nice feature, but to residents they are a disaster waiting to happen,” he said.

InfraVest Taiwan vice president Wang Yun-yi (王雲怡) said the company shut down the turbine after the broken blade incident and launched a thorough investigation into the matter, in full cooperation with the ministry and the bureau.

It also paid an indemnity to the person who owned the land on which the blade fell, Wang said.

The investigation found that a loose screw had caused the blade to fall, Wang said, adding that the company had immediately replaced each screw in every turbine in the area.

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