Sun, Oct 01, 2017 - Page 3 News List

COA to promote use of solar panels at farms

WIN-WIN SITUATION:In accordance with its ‘no damage to agriculture’ goal, the council is to prioritize the placement of solar panels on poultry farm rooftops

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

Council of Agriculture “green” energy development is contingent on farmland protection, council Deputy Minister Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) said yesterday at a meeting with environmental protection groups in Taipei, adding that it plans to start promoting the installation of solar power systems on rooftops and at fish farms.

Between 740,000 and 810,000 hectares of farmland are needed to ensure food self-sufficiency in Taiwan, but only 576,302 hectares are designated for agricultural use, he said, stressing the importance of protecting farmland.

Homemakers United Foundation researcher Tang Lin-hsiang (湯琳翔) praised the council’s efforts to increase farmland inventory, but questioned the council’s ability to stick to its principles when facing pressure from the “nuclear-free homeland by 2025.”

For example, the council in 2015 announced a list of 18 subsided plots of land unsuitable for farming, but available to install energy facilities, about 1,253 hectares in total, Tang said.

Less than 10 percent of the plots have been used to install energy systems, yet the council last week announced another 1,130 hectares of subsided plots of land, Tang said, asking if the council would allocate more plots for what it called “the win-win situation of agrivoltaic systems.”

Agrivoltaic farms are not the council’s first choice to promote solar energy, Chen said, adding that the council would not be identifying more subsided plots of land in the near future.

While the Executive Yuan has set the goal of generating 20 gigawatts (GW) of electricity from solar power by 2025, the council plans to help achieve that goal under the stipulation that “no damage be caused to agriculture,” Chen said.

Promoting the installation of solar power systems on rooftops at poultry farms is the council’s priority, with about 11,000 hectares of available space, he said, adding that such installations have little effect on the environment.

As for installations on the ground, the council advises applicants to start with fish farms, he said.

“While the death rates of shellfish, tilapia, milkfish and grouper at fish farms have been rising, the algae that grows around solar facilities improves fish habitats,” Chen said.

“The council has been experimenting with different amounts of algae coverage, from 30 percent to 50 percent,” he said.

About 4GW can be generated from 10,000 hectares of solar power systems installed at fish farms, Chen said, adding that there are 41,854 hectares of fish farms available.

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