Is Taiwan ready for GW-sized PV projects?

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Taiwan’s state-run Taiwan Sugar Corp. (Taisugar) and semiconductor manufacturer Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TMSC) plan to build large solar power projects, according to the Taipei Times.

TMSC reportedly intends to build what has been described as the island’s biggest solar park to date on 1,000 hectares of land in Pingtung county, according to an article published on Nov. 27. Taisugar, meanwhile, is also said to be planning an agrivoltaic project across more than 1,000 hectares of farmland it owns.

In a statement to pv magazine, however, TSMC denied the Taipei Times report. “TSMC currently has no plans to build any kind of power plant, PV or otherwise,” a spokesperson for the semiconductor manufacturer said. “TSMC is eager to see more renewable energy available for purchase in Taiwan. We have been cooperating with the Taiwan government and renewable energy suppliers to find solutions for accelerating green power generation in Taiwan.”

Taisugar, meanwhile, has also downsized its solar ambitions. In a press release issued on Nov. 6, the company said that recent media reports about its selection of sites for solar plants had affected its plans, and that it had withdrawn related tender announcements to work on what it said were more appropriate solutions.

“We will develop photovoltaic green energy in line with the government’s renewable energy policy,” the company stated, adding that it is now looking at sites in areas that are not environmentally sensitive. “Taiwan Sugar emphasizes that the company’s business is based on cooperating with the country’s development and being attentive to the social environment and the company’s sustainable operation, so that limited land resources are available in the right place and in the best possible way.”

The Taipei Times has also reported that officials from the Industrial Development Bureau, under Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs, have inspected land owned by Taiwan Sugar in Kaohsiung, as well as Yunlin, Changhua and Chiayi counties. The bureau is looking for locations on which to build new industrial zones, as scores of Taiwanese businesses continue to return from China in response to the ongoing US-China trade dispute. The newspaper claimed that many of these returning enterprises are eyeing properties owned by Taisugar, which is struggling to cope with the decline of the island’s sugar industry.

The daily said that many of the sites that Taisugar is considering for PV development are probably agricultural properties and forested plots of land. “Building solar energy facilities on them and changing the land classification might have an effect on the landscape and affect the nation’s overall farmland protection,” the newspaper said.

As in neighboring South Korea, land shortages are also a big issue for solar deployment in Taiwan, as roughly two-thirds of the country is mountainous.

The Taiwanese government aims to install 20 GW of solar by 2025, with 3 GW of rooftop PV and 17 GW of ground-mounted capacity. And Taiwanese Premier Su Tseng-chang recently said that the government expects around 3.7 GW of new solar capacity before 2021.

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), by the end of 2018 the country had installed around 2.6 GW of solar.