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June 26, 2017

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Manager of German turbine firm talks up wind farms

TAIPEI--A manager at a German wind turbine company said Taiwan has good potential for expanding wind power generation, suggesting the country can start with community wind farms as a way to increase public awareness of the alternative energy source.

If community residents can invest in and profit from wind turbines, they will look at these facilities in a different way, said Bart Linssen, service manager at Solvent GmbH's Taiwan branch and Dutch national, in an interview with CNA on the sidelines of TEDxTaipei's Shareable Cities forum in Taipei.

Linssen, whose company is involved in the installation and maintenance of wind turbines in Taiwan, said a lack of public acceptance is still the major obstacle to installing such facilities in Taiwan, but he believes the problem can be tackled through incentives.

Denmark's government, for example, drafted regulations to ensure that community wind turbines can be connected to the grid and residents can profit from the sale of power they create, he said.

"If we can convince them that people will benefit from it (wind farms), that it's safe and has actual benefits for them, there is much potential there," he said.

Power generated from wind, geothermal and solar photovoltaic facilities accounted for 0.13 percent of Taiwan's energy supply in 2013, according to government statistics.

As of the end of 2012, Taiwan has 161 wind power units which boast an installed capacity of 286.76 megawatts, statistics show.

The government has said it plans to build 600 offshore wind power units by 2030.

Taiwan is ideally suited to developing wind energy, according to Linssen, because of its abundant wind, especially in the north of the island.

"Our turbines produce two times more (power) in Taiwan than in Germany," he said.

Falling costs for wind energy production could help spur its development in Taiwan.

In 1984, the cost of wind power was around NT$8 (US$0.27) per kilowatt-hour, while in 2012 it had fallen to about NT$2 per kWh, he said.

But he admitted there are limits to the power source. Wind power can fluctuate depending on the season, and there are still hurdles to storing large amounts of wind energy.

Wind turbines are not the only renewable energy option for Taiwan, he noted, saying that everything from biomass to solar power should be used to its maximum extent.

"You may still need gas or other sources, but let's try to get rid of coal first and work with gas," said Linssen, who called coal-fired power plants "very polluting," "disastrous" and "not the way we should go."

In the end, he said, Taiwan's biggest renewable energy sources is "energy efficiency."

Taiwan has one of the cheapest electricity prices in the world, so people are not using it efficiently, he said.

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