Sat, Feb 03, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Cooperative urges honesty about cost of solar panels

NOTHING IS FOR FREE:Solar panels usually start to decay in the sixth year after completion and the weather in parts of Taiwan can speed up that process, group members said

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

The Green Advocates Energy Cooperative yesterday announced the completion of its first solar farm on a residential rooftop in Miaoli County and used the occasion to call on the government to be transparent about the risk and maintenance costs associated with such an investment.

Established in October 2016, the cooperative aims to promote small-scale renewable energy generation by pooling its members’ investments.

The cooperative helped a family in the county’s Toufen City (頭份) install 34 pieces of high-efficiency solar panels on its 18.5 ping (61.16m2) rooftop, cooperative chairperson Hwang Shu-te (黃淑德) said.

The panels have a capacity of 10.03 kilowatts and are expected to generate 10,832 kilowatt-hours per year, she said, adding that construction cost about NT$642,229, excluding a 20-year contract covering management and maintenance costs.

Taiwanese should become “prosumers” — producers as well as consumers — of electricity, she said, adding that in Germany, almost half of renewable energy plants are owned and operated by private citizens.

“Hopefully, every Taiwanese will be able to choose from different ‘green’ energy sources by 2025,” she said, adding that the group is to help two other residences in Kaohsiung and New Taipei City install photovoltaic capacity.

The solar installation’s successful completion by a citizens’ group is a crucial step in the nation’s energy transformation, which has mostly been propelled by government agencies and big corporations, said Executive Yuan Office of Energy and Carbon Reduction deputy executive officer Lin Tze-luen (林子倫), who is also a cooperative member.

The office is to launch an action plan to promote citizen-run power plants before June, which is to be included in the government’s energy transformation white paper, Lin said.

The cooperative urged the government to provide full transparency and to streamline the application process for installations of power plants.

The cooperative spent about 10 months completing the solar farm’s installation and most delays were due to changes to construction regulations and administrative barriers, Huang said.

For example, many people have difficulty understanding the technical language on application forms provided by state-run utility and grid operator Taiwan Power Co, which they need to fill in to have their installation connected to the power grid, she said.

Government agencies and other energy developers also seldom reveal the financial risks posed by potential damage to solar panels and their maintenance cost, she said, adding that systems generally start to decay from the sixth year after their completion.

Other problems include the prevalence of illegal structures on rooftops and abundant rainfall in certain regions that can accelerate decay in photovoltaic structures, said energy consultant Chiu Ying-chou (邱瀛洲), another cooperative member.

The government should disclose such information along with its energy-related regulations and help people build secure installations that could last for 20 years, he said.

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