Photovoltaic Farming to Reserve Water

Photovoltaic Farming to Reserve Water

Case name Photovoltaic Farming to Reserve Water
Case location Pingtung County
Erection style High ground-mounted PV panels
Owner Public construction
System type Solar PV
System power output 20MWp
Energy company LCY Chemical Group
Completion date 2011

Among the 31 recipients of IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge Grant of 2013 is Pingtung County, a region outside the normal hustle and bustle of the R.O.C. industries. Although Pingtung is not a core location of the R.O.C.’s technological advancements, the county has been striving successfully toward clean energy production. The Photovoltaic Farm to Reserve Water Project is a testament to this effort.

In an effort to promote a nuclear free town, Pingtung has been encouraging renewable energy industries to set up shop locally. This move is also expected to invigorate local economy. The PV Farm project brought together the county government, energy companies and local landowners. The technology and construction involved also helped upgrade the electricity infrastructure, advance electrification and even increase employment.

(1)   Typhoon Morakot and the Pingtung County Disaster Relief Policy

The PV Farm concept was originated in the wake of Typhoon Morakot, a super-storm in 2009 that devastated Southern R.O.C. and left US$3.3 billion in damages. Many areas in Pingtung are originally low-lying areas, added to the fact of over-pumping of underground water by local aquaculture industry; the typhoon resulted in serious flooding, causing land salination and subsidence in agricultural areas. After the typhoon, Pingtung County government proposed a land restoration policy in 2010 that supports the development of green energy industry in disaster stricken areas. By August of the same year, corporations were selected as partners to work toward the goal of renewable energy development and community reconstruction.

Despite changes in electricity purchase price and rises in raw materials on the eve of contract signing, many companies held steadfast in their agreement to assist the Pingtung community in local investment. By October 2013, the PV farming project yielded US$ 14 million in solar infrastructure investment, 23.5 kW of installed solar energy capacity and conserved 45 hectares of badland. Municipal and school buildings were commissioned for solar rooftop power farms with investment from private organizations. In addition to solar power, wind power, firedamp technology and biomass energy generation were also integrated in Pingtung County’s green energy enterprise. Agriculture was also combined with renewable energy efforts in solar powered greenhouses.

Because large areas of farmland were destroyed in the storm, existing cultivatable land became more precious. Solar power system integrators in the R.O.C. combined PV technology with traditional greenhouse concept to increase productivity on limited farmland without putting extra burden on the natural environment. A series of self-reliant, solar powered greenhouses that increased harvest rates for crops was constructed. The greenhouses became the first establishments to integrate steel solar panel scaffolding with greenhouse construction design in R.O.C. The solar greenhouses apply three-dimensional cultivation method to grow more than 10 kinds of organic fruits and vegetables. Each item gives farmers several harvests per year, increasing the added value of the limited farm space. The greenhouses also attract agricultural experts and students to work on and study the operation of the innovative farming practice. The aggregate performance of government, businesses and local communities in Pingtung is heartwarming. It is a perfect example of how a united society could bring technology and humanity together to create a better future.

(a)   High Mounted PV Farm

 Image

Source: IEK, Industrial Technology Research Institute

(2)   LCY Group and the 20MW PV Farm

Among the many organizations that worked on the project, LCY Group was the most generous contributor to the solar power initiative. Established in 1965, LCY Group is the largest solvent manufacturer in the R.O.C. The company is the second largest TPE manufacturer and the top ten polysilicon manufacturer by capacity in the world. The company has a significant global presence with four factories in the R.O.C., four in the P.R.C., One in Qatar and one in the USA. LCY is also the founding member of the R.O.C. Responsible Care Association.

After the storm, Pingtung County and LCY Group promoted the PV Farm to Reserve Water concept to make use of uncultivable land and assist local farmers in industrial restructuring. Salinated land and destroyed fish ponds are rented to the energy company for mounting PV panels. Fish ponds were transformed into water conservation pools and farm land is given time to recover. Meanwhile, landowners and farmers were given positions as manager or director of the PV power plant. According to policies and reports in 2011, 170 landowners who joined the project were offered US$1,670 to US$2,000 per year for every 970 square meters rented. This is five times the common farm land renting rate. Moreover, more than 500 jobs were created in the community for the project. Power generated by the energy company was offered about US$0.25 per kilowatt hour. As of September 2013, LCY Group announced that the PV Farm capacity has reached 20 MW and will steadily increase annually by approximately 7 MW. LCY Group’s success in Pingtung has also attracted many other solar energy companies and related industries to set up in Pingtung County.

(b)   LCY Group Green Energy Promotion Hall

 Image

Source: IEK, Industrial Technology Research Institute

The PV Farm to Reserve Water project was able to turn destroyed farmland into solar power generating areas and safeguard the county’s underground water source. This creative project also allowed local farmers to farm electricity and turn Pingtung into the most productive solar powered region in the R.O.C. It seems that Typhoon Morakot brought with it not only destruction, but also hope and innovation.

Project Results as of October 2013:

  • Attracted USD$ 14 million solar power plant investment in Pingtung County.
  • 31 million kWh generated per year from solar energy sources.
  • Conserves 9.8 million cubic meters of underground water per year.
  • Local land owners received USD$ 734,000 in total rent income.
  • Decreased CO2 emissions by 19 thousand tons per year.
  • 177 articles of land commissioned for PV farming, directly increased 80 employment opportunities for farmers and raised income for 168 families.

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