Project

What We Can Learn About the Future of Energy From a Wind Farm in Taiwan

Wind power faces prejudices. Our previous article looked deeper into why the world still hasn’t adopted more wind farms. Essentially, concerns about the efficiency and the fundamental contribution to the energy demand, as well as aesthetics, were found to be the biggest prohibitions. A wind farm project in Taiwan tackled the topic with a more holistic approach: They not only build wind turbines but also invest in education on sustainability and in local inclusion. The results are positive and the wind farms are popular with the Taiwanese public as a result. And not to forget, they are saving thousands of tons of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere.

Taiwan is an island surrounded by water in the South-East of China’s coastline. Being so close to the water comes with strong winds, making it the ideal place to generate wind energy. Yet, Taiwan is still heavily reliant on fossil fuels. At the same time the country is a major producer of global steel, machinery, electronics and chemicals — all very energy-intensive industries. The air quality of the country is therefore considered moderate to unhealthy [1].

The Changbin and Taichung wind farms are an ecomove partner project. They attempt to make the country less dependent on polluting sources of electricity.


An ecomove partner project: Changbin and Taichung wind power, Taiwan

The project has set up two pioneering wind farms on Taiwan’s west coast: Wind park Taichung and Changbin. Both harness the untapped energy of the wind. Together they count 62 wind turbines that can produce 483,864 MWh of clean power on average each year [2]. The wind farms connect to the local electricity grid so that Taiwanese households can sustainably power their homes.

But the project initiators did not stop there. They adopted a strategy that showcases what wind power can achieve beyond energy: a more sustainable world. The Changbin and Taichung wind farms invest in the social and economic development of the area. They host regular cleanings of nearby beaches, invest in the reforestation of 2,400 square meters of land, encouraging local biodiversity, and offer guided wind farm tours that raise awareness about climate change and pollution [2]. On top of this, the project has created jobs for locals, supports elderly activities and sponsors 50 scholarships each year for a local school [3]. For the sake of quality assurance, all projects are externally verified.

The wind parks have taken on the mission of motivating the public’s commitment to renewable energy. They have become increasingly popular destinations for tourists, creating valuable education opportunities:

[…] in addition to strengthening the promotion of wind energy, we will also be spearheading projects such as the ”Thousand Wind Turbines Project” in the hope of motivating the public to commit to the development of renewable energy to create an environment of power conservation and carbon reduction in order to achieve sustainable lifestyles and consumption.” — Jung-Chiou Hwang, Project Owner

Taiwan won’t stop there. The country’s government plans to generate 20% of its power from renewable energy by 2025, up from 5% in 2020 [4]. To realise these plans, the Changbin and Taichung wind farms’ approach can allow for unique insights to improve future initiatives, helping them to overcome the pitfalls of awareness-raising approaches and their scalability.

How to overcome potential pitfalls for wind farm projects in the future

The Changbin and Taichung wind farms go beyond just generating wind energy. The additional contributions to the environmental and social projects are great. Yet, wind energy opponents might challenge these efforts and project support approaches to be greenwashing. To overcome these challenges and prove genuine efforts for impact, it is important to make the gains and wins of the project tangible. Then, one can win over the negative voices. Particularly, if efforts exceed expectations. For example, in the case of the Changbin and Taichung wind farms, they went further than aiding the SDG-7, creating affordable green energy, and created 28 jobs for the local area, contributing to SDG 8 — decent work and economic growth.

Now how can this number grow even further? For future initiatives, it will be important to consider the needs of workers in non-renewable-energy jobs. They can’t quit today and start the next day at the wind farm. A completely different skill set will be required, creating the threatening prospect of unemployment. Therefore, future projects should address occupational redeployment or similar incentives.

In addition, while it’s widely recognised that wind power is one of the cleanest forms of producing energy, there are mixed opinions about its impact on wildlife, in particular birds and bats. Hence, projects that don’t only take social, but also environmental action, supporting the biodiversity around wind farms could offer additional protection. The Changbin and Taichung wind farms offer great learnings from their reforestation project in this case.

Finally, another consideration for the future transferability of the Taiwan wind farm project is that appropriate circumstances for set up are not to be taken for granted. Like many other countries, Taiwan has limited land available. In these cases, larger wind farm visions will see excellent opportunities in offshore projects.

Read more about the challenges of wind farms here.

The Taiwan wind farm approach to use on-land wind farms as a portfolio case to raise environmental awareness and educate people on the topic seems to work. The wind farms are famous, and there are large expansion plans for more wind parks in and around Taiwan. While not all of the project features, such as a wind farm tour for the sake of public education can be copy-pasted as easily on sea, the Changbin and Taichung wind farms have already served as a bridge-builder between the general public and their perception about wind farms. To help generate more of the world’s energy by using wind power, copying their approach is worth a try.

Sources

[1] IQAir, 2021 | https://www.iqair.com/taiwan

[2] South Pole, 2019 | https://www.southpole.com/publications/project-fact-sheet-changbin-and-taichung-wind-power-taiwan

[3] Gold standard, 2021 | https://www.goldstandard.org/projects/changbin-and-taichung-wind-power-taiwan

[4] International Trade Administration U.S. Department of Commerce, 2021 | https://www.trade.gov/market-intelligence/taiwan-renewable-energy-market