Taipower Brings in Cows to Assist in Taiwan’s Energy Transition

Taipower Brings in Cows to Assist in Taiwan’s Energy Transition
Photo Credit: Supplied by Taipower

What you need to know

To avoid harming the environment, Taipower prohibited the use of herbicides for the task of protecting its solar panels from weeds. It's called on cows instead.

In the latest energy transition development, Taiwan Power Company (Taipower) transformed a disposal site for mine waste into a 32-acre photovoltaic power park in Nantou last year. To date, the power system has generated 600,000 kilowatts of electricity, enough to power 1,800 households for a month.

Phase two of Taipower’s project (which will have a capacity of 8 megawatts at completion) is set to finish by the end of 2021. Not only will it be the third highest capacity solar field in Taiwan — it would be one of the country’s most unusual sources of solar energy.

The photovoltaic system consists of 3,320 pieces of high-efficiency solar panels. If the space underneath the panels is covered by weeds, it might affect the energy generation efficiency and shorten the lifespan of the panels. A photovoltaic power plant normally needs weed control to maintain the capabilities of the panels.

But to avoid harming the environment, Taipower prohibited the use of herbicides. Instead, the company came up with the “cow-and-electricity co-existence” project.

Partnering with the Council of Agriculture, Taipower brought in two Taiwanese Yellow Cattles, Biggie (大仔) and WanWan (彎彎), to help with the weeding work.

A Taipower representative said that the company also only uses water, rather than a cleaning agent, to wash the solar panels. To protect the plants and flowers in the power park, Taipower took notes from overseas solar power plants that also use animals instead of mowers for weed control.

碎石棄渣區轉型成功 台電派黃牛助陣友善環境
Photo Credit: CNA
The Taipower Nantou solar park, August 19, 2020.

The government has set a goal for 20% of the country's electricity consumption to be drawn from renewable energy sources by 2025. The highest expectations are held for solar power, which is estimated to be able to produce 20 gigawatts. Roof-based panels already have reached their goal of producing 3 gigawatts, but the goal for ground-based panels (17 gigawatts) still lies a bit in the distance. The fields of Taiwan are sprouting sporadic solar panels across various regions, while companies are renting pieces of land to build solar panels.

Solar power is a profitable trade. In Taiwan, solar panels consuming space that’s less than 660 square meters only require a simple permit application. According to Council of Agriculture statistics, over 954 applications to install solar panels in farmlands have been approved. This has raised concerns over the loss of arable land, and the council has revised the regulations in July to tighten the requirement.

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TNL Editor: Daphne K. Lee, Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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