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Lawmaker warns of solar power impact on agriculture

2017/11/01 18:34

Image taken from Pixabay

Taipei, Nov. 1 (CNA) A lawmaker voiced concerns on Wednesday that the government's push for solar power is motivating local governments and farmers to sacrifice agriculture in pursuit of harnessing lucrative solar energy.

According to a United Evening News report, Kuomintang Legislator Chang Li-shan (張麗善) is particularly concerned about land the Council of Agriculture (COA) has suddenly deemed unsuitable for cultivation so that solar panels can be installed on it instead.

The COA previously reported a total of 1,253 hectares of land unsuitable for agriculture, but that number nearly doubled in its latest survey to 2,383 hectares.

The COA said the 1,253-hectare figure was arrived at through a central government survey, while the new figure was the cumulative sum of land reported by local governments as not being arable.

Chang, a native of the agricultural Yunlin County, implied that local governments are deliberately categorizing arable land as unsuitable for agriculture to create more space for solar panels.

That, she said, has led farmers to install solar panels on their farms instead of sticking to traditional agriculture in the pursuit of higher profits.

A hectare of land can generate annual income of NT$50,000 from growing crops, compared with an annual income of NT$200,000 when used for solar panels, Chang said.

Though on the surface it may seem like a good deal to trade in agriculture for solar energy, the 20-year contracts farmers sign with solar energy businesses carry risks, she said.

The companies agree to pay farmers relatively high prices for their solar power over the length of the contract on expectations they can resell the power at even higher prices, but if solar power prices tumble over time, the companies could quickly pull out of the deals, leaving farmers with no way to make a living, she warned.

Chang also wondered what will happen to agriculture in Taiwan if farms all sport solar panels.

In the latest survey compiled by COA, Yunlin County had the most land deemed not suitable for cultivation at 1,440 hectares, followed by Pingtung County at 494 hectares and Tainan City at 226 hectares.

(By Kuan-lin Liu)Enditem/ls