Mon, Aug 07, 2017 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: EPA’s Chan addresses wind farms

LEARNING CURVE:The EPA deputy minister urged the wind-farm industry to focus on learning manufacturing and skills that can be exported as the business expands

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

Environmental Protection Administration Deputy Minister Chan Shun-kuei sits for an interview on Thursday in Taipei.

Photo: Lin Chia-nan, Taipei Times

Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) Deputy Minister Chan Shun-kuei (詹順貴) addressed the problems involved in offshore wind farming in Taiwan in an interview with the Taipei Times on Thursday.

“Development is not always wrong. Sometimes it is the location that is the problem,” he said, showing that he is not an indiscriminate opponent to economic development even though he often sides with the disadvantaged in land development issues.

Since the beginning of this year, the EPA has received 22 environmental impact assessment (EIA) applications from offshore wind-farm developers.

However, most were required to make up for their insufficient ecological studies.

Fuhai Wind Farm Co’s project off the coast of Changhua County last month was the first to undergo a second-stage EIA, mainly because it is near wetlands and Taiwanese humpback dolphin habitats in waters 15m deep.

Another developer, Wpd Taiwan Energy, withdrew an EIA application later last month due to “new environmental impact factors.”

The EPA’s newly drawn dolphin habitat chart compelled the firm to re-evaluate whether to continue the project, a representative told reporters on Monday last week.

“If we had acquired the information earlier, we would not have chosen the site,” the representative added.

However, Chan said the habitat chart was not new information, because the Bureau of Energy was aware of the habitat.

“The bureau did not provide the applicants with sufficient information,” he said. “Now that we make the EIA criteria very clear, developers know our attitude about locations. They cannot bet on chance anymore.”

“The agencies in charge of economic development and construction did not have environmental awareness when making policies before. They often supposed the EPA or its EIA procedures could tackle all environmental issues,” Chan said.

“However, the sites were often in environmentally sensitive areas, so the plans stalled in EIA review and were followed by much controversy and opposition,” he said.

Amid increasing pressure on “green” energy development, Chan did not conceal his dissatisfaction with the economic agencies.

The Bureau of Energy has not even published available routes for cables and a fairway near the Mailiao Industrial Harbor, which affects all offshore projects, he said.

His blame is not unfounded, as official plans for offshore wind farms appear to be inconsistent.

The Executive Yuan in 2012 launched the “Thousand Wind Turbines Promotion Project,” and the next year, the bureau selected three companies — Fuhai, Formosa 1 Wind Power Co and Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) — to develop offshore wind turbines.

In 2015, the bureau published the Regulations on Offshore Wind Power Planned Sites along with 36 sites from which developers could choose.

They were required to pass EIAs by the end of this year to obtain construction permits.

However, it was not until the second half of last year that the EPA began to conduct strategic environmental assessment (SEA), which form the basis for all subsequent impact assessments.

The initial SEA concluded that offshore wind farm projects must be at least 1km away from dolphin habitats near the shore, and that sites farther from the potential fairway should be built first.

With more projects failing EIAs, the bureau last month said it is to work with the Ministry of Science and Technology to build a marine studies database for offshore wind-farm projects.

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