The China Post news staff
The islands of Penghu are blessed with white sand beaches and crystal blue ocean water — in the summer. In the summer months Penghu is almost overrun with visitors, but this island chain that used to be known as the “Pescadores” (“Fishermen” in Portuguese), changes dramatically with the seasons. Fierce winds — so strong that they can make walking in a straight line difficult — pound Penghu for months during the fall and winter; tourist arrivals understandably slow to a trickle. But Penghu is taking the “turn lemons into lemonade” maxim to heart by embarking on a project to harness the power of the wind to create energy. Last week The China Post reported that the government intends to develop Penghu into a “low-carbon” island, with the goal of reducing carbon emissions in Penghu to half of 2005 levels by 2015. If this was not Penghu, the idea might be dismissed as political posturing, but the “lemon” of harsh winds means the idea is feasible. Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-shiang has announced that new turbines fitted with “smart meters” will be installed by 2015, and that same year the government hopes to have 56 percent of Penghu’s energy needs produced by renewable energy — specifically from wind turbines. When the winds are strong enough that Penghu’s power stations are collecting more than the island’s power needs, the extra energy will be sent back for use on Taiwan.
This over NT$8 billion project will also include installing LED streetlamps, subsidizing 6,000 electric motorcycles, creating new bicycle trails and the promotion of biodiesel use. With a population of fewer than 100,000, this offshore island chain could be an ideal place to test and tweak low carbon technologies that will eventually be utilized back on Taiwan proper. Many assumed the people of Penghu would approve the construction of casinos in a referendum held in September 2009. But instead, the casino construction plan went down in defeat as a solid majority of more than 17,000 Penghu voters said “no” while just over 13,000 agreed to the plan. Some undoubtedly thought the decision was a mistake, as major gaming companies such as Harrah’s, MGM and the Melco Crown Entertainment group were all said to be interested in investing hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars in casino-hotel complexes. It is certainly understandable, however, that Penghu’s people elected to not turn their summer island paradise into a spot for legalized vice.