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【Energy Taiwan Interview】Ysolar Focuses on Ground-Mounted PV Power Stations and Provides One-Stop Service to Create Win-Win Scenarios

published: 2020-10-05 9:30

“To successfully pursue a venture, one must cultivate close relationships not only with the surrounding environment but also with the local people,” said Yuan Shu-mei, VP of Ysolar Co. In order for Taiwan to achieve its renewable energy target of raising the installed PV capacity to 20GW by 2025, more efforts have to be committed into building large ground-mounted PV power stations. However, the development process for ground-mounted projects follows completely different procedures compared with rooftop projects. As a specialist in the former, Ysolar possesses the expertise in consolidating and managing all aspects of the project development process. Furthermore, the company has been working hard to take root in the communities where they are serving and become familiar with the local sentiments. Hence, it can provide services that satisfy the needs and values of its clients.

Taiwan’s current green energy plan calls for raising the share of renewables in the island’s energy mix to 20% by 2025. Solar PV is leading the renewable expansion with the installation target for 2025 being set at 20GW by the Bureau of Energy under the Ministry of Economic Affairs. Within this total, ground-mounted power stations and rooftop systems are estimated to account for 14-15GW and 5-6GW respectively. Based on the details of the government’s strategy, we can see that ground-mounted power stations will be playing a key role in achieving the green energy goal.

With its focus on ground-mounted PV power stations, Ysolar has been working in Taiwan’s Pingtung County to initiate and execute projects that are noted for a large area of coverage. Yuan said that the technological and technical barriers to building PV power stations are very high. Apart from dealing with the issues related to high-voltage installations, project developers have to negotiate closely with local governments and land owners when acquiring plots of land and their land-use conversion.

To expedite the development process and provide a one-stop service window, Ysolar employs a highly professional team composed of experts in their areas of knowledge. The company is also in constant communication with land owners and strives to be a good neighbor in the communities where it operates. By building a long-term and trusting relationship with the locals, Ysolar ensures ongoing public and government support for its projects.

 (Image: Yuan Shu-mei, VP of Ysolar)

A large area of land is one of the basic requirements for a ground-mounted PV power station. To avoid issues related to the expropriation of crop fields and limit the environmental impact of construction, the central and local governments of Taiwan have jointly drawn up preliminary plans for the allocation of land for solar projects. In Pingtung County, districts including Donggang Township, Linbian Township, and Fangliao Township have areas that suffer severe land subsidence and are unsuitable for agricultural activities. Hence, they have been designated as special districts for new PV power stations.

Not only setting up the special districts, the Pingtung government also selected excellent PV project developers by the open bids. All these doings step up the conditions for the solar energy development. If the construction of ground-mounted PV power stations moves forward as scheduled, the installed PV capacity of the entire Pingtung County is expected to reach around 800MW within these two years.

Yuan believes that building PV power stations in subsidence area creates a win-win scenario for solar enterprises and local communities. The coastal areas of Pingtung are of limited value for agricultural purposes due to a host of factors including land subsidence and salinization of soil. Also, from the perspective of restoring degraded lands, soil needs a period of inactivity in order to regain its health. However, farmers earn no income when their fields are resting. In this instance, the deployment of PV systems is a highly practical solution that puts idle lands to use while protecting the interests of farmers and land owners.

It is worth mentioning that the government-run utility Taipower (Taiwan Power Company) plans to shut down the two reactor units at the Maanshan Nuclear Power Plant on 26 July 2024 and 17 May 2025. The decommissioning of this nuclear power station, which is located in Pingtung, will create an electricity supply gap that the government has insisted to be filled by green energy. Therefore, building ground-mounted PV power stations in the same county on lands experiencing subsidence will be “a win-win-win deal” for the government, local land owners, and domestic solar enterprises.

Ysolar is recognized for its strong capability in consolidating and managing all aspects of the project development process. The company offers one-stop service that takes care of rezoning, change in land-use registration, submission of project proposal, EPC, O&M, etc. Besides its expertise in PV technologies and project development, Ysolar also proactively nurtures a friendly and mutually beneficial relationship with local land owners. It provides professional consultation to those interested in investing in ground-mounted PV power stations, serving as a channel for information and advice on land lease agreements, ownership rights to generation assets, and other related legal or financial matters.

As of now, solely in Pingtung County, Ysolar has cooperated with more than 1,000 individual land owners, and rented more than 300 ha land to set up the PV power stations. The amount of the capacity being approved has exceeded 200 MW. Moreover, in terms of island, Ysolar has rented around 582 ha, which means Ysolar could attain a total installed capacity of at least 600MW in the near future.

 (Image: YSolar’s Xinpi Power Station in Taiwan’s Pingtung County)

Obtaining the development permit for a ground-mounted PV power station and changing the land-use designation of tracts of farmland involve complicated bureaucratic procedures. A team of professionals is needed to simultaneously handle the many different applications. Yuan said that the first and foremost matter that a project developer has to attend to is to win the trust of local land owners in order to acquire the necessary land for its project. This, of course, refers back to the saying: “To successfully pursue a venture, one must cultivate close relationships not only with the surrounding environment but also with the local people.”

After entering lease agreements with land owners and combining all their plots into one large area for accommodating the entire PV power station, the project developer then has to seek approval from Taipower, submit the land-use consent form to the local government, and pass an environmental impact assessment. The relevant administering authority in the local government can formally grant the development permit when all these requirements are met.

However, there are still more bureaucratic hurdles to overcome. Yuan pointed out that following the granting of the development permit comes the applications for changing the land-use designations of individual plots. It should be noted that each category of land use has its own procedures and rules for repurposing the land under its designation into another category. Once the applications have been reviewed and approved, the Department of Land Administration under the Ministry of Interior can then alter the land registration transcripts of the individual plots, which are relabeled as lands for “special enterprise”.

After that, the project developer has to obtain a construction permit to begin work. Generally speaking, ground-mounted PV power stations also require a collection of miscellaneous licenses before any actual work can take place. This is especially the case when there are discrepancies between the site conditions and the project design. Finally, when the construction of the power station is finished, the project developer has to obtain an operating license for the facility from Taipower.

In June, Ysolar held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new PV power station located in Jiadong Township of Pingtung County. With a generation capacity of 99MW, the Jiadong power station is being developed by four local subsidiaries of Ysolar. Yuan noted that moving this project from the start of land acquisition to the start of construction actually took two years. Once completed, the power station will supply up to 118GWh of electricity annually to meet the demand of 33,000 households. Even though the development process has been protracted and challenging, Yuan is confident that all the hard work and wait will be worth it. In addition to contributing to the gradual adoption of solar PV in the region, the venture will be a boon for both local land owners and domestic manufacturers of PV products.

Regarding its strategy for the future, Ysolar will first concentrate on strengthening its presence in Pingtung in the short term. Yuan said that a small-scale project developed by her company in Xinpi Township already entered operation in July, and the next objective is the completion of the larger, 99MW Jiadong power station. As the company always adheres to the principle of honesty and integrity, it intends to commit resources and efforts into ensuring that its existing projects reach the highest standard in terms of performance and quality. On the technology front, Ysolar is considering energy storage integration so that its PV power stations can meet the electricity demand during the evening and night hours. Looking ahead to the medium and long term, Ysolar plans to expand to other counties and cities on the island and is now in communication with interested parties residing in these localities.

In Ysolar’s view, Taiwan has little experience in building ground-mounted PV power stations. This situation allows rumors and unconfirmed reports to cause public controversies over proposals for new large-scale solar projects. Fortunately, such misunderstandings can be cleared up through communication with land owners and other relevant stakeholders. At the same time, discussions on the pros and cons of a local solar project should be framed from an objective and scientific perspective. Ysolar will be among the major exhibitors at Energy Taiwan 2020, which is expected to be the grandest trade show yet for the island’s energy sector. The company will be using the event to advocate for solar PV, publicize its corporate philosophy, and dispel the public’s doubts about the construction of PV power stations.

Energy Taiwan 2020 will be held from October 14 to 16 at Hall 1 of Taipei Nangang Exhibition Center (TaiNEX 1). This international trade show will highlight the latest advances in renewable technologies such as solar PV, wind power, and energy storage. In addition to Ysolar, the other major exhibitors include the following: TSEC, Motech Industries, AUO, Win Win Precision Technology, Sysgration, TAYA Group, Mobiletron, Swancor Renewable Energy, Ørsted, EnBW Asia Pacific, Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, and Hai Long Offshore Wind Farm Project.

As an annual trade show, Energy Taiwan provides the most comprehensive look at the supply chains of different renewable technologies. This year’s event is expected to attract tens of thousands of industry buyers from home and abroad. For more details about the various exhibitions, please visit the official website.

 (The credits for the images in this article go to Ysolar.)

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