Great news for the environment…Taiwan plans to spend $3 billion on wind power installation over the next few years.

Offshore turbine capacity may total 360 megawatts by 2010, according to a report from the bureau, distributed at an industry conference yesterday. That may eventually rise to 1,200 megawatts, Wang said, without giving a time frame.

Wind farms, both those built on land and in the sea, may account for about 5 percent of Taiwan’s total installed capacity by 2010, he said. That compares with 0.4 percent as of July, according to Taiwan Power’s Web site.

This month the government started accepting applications from private companies for building the island’s first offshore wind farm, citing difficulties in finding onshore sites. Permission for a total of 300 megawatts will be granted within three years.

The government is promoting wind power, because “we have plentiful wind resources,” Wang said. The island’s turbines are productive for as much as 35 percent of the time, compared with 20 percent in Germany, he said.

Teco, Formosa Plastics

Waters along the island’s western coast have “suitable” sites for offshore wind farms, Wang said. Taiwan also has companies that produce components for turbines, including Formosa Heavy Industries Corp. and Teco Electric & Machinery Co., he said.

Teco, based in Taipei, makes household appliances. Formosa Heavy, also in Taipei, is a unit of Formosa Plastics Group.

Wind power of 300 megawatts can replace the equivalent of 250,000 kiloliters (1.57 million barrels) of oil and cut emissions of more than 620,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases a year, according to the bureau. Taiwan accounted for 1 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions in 2004.

Another reason for the government to push for wind power is to improve “energy security,” Wang said.

Taiwan Power, the state-run utility that produces about 75 percent of the island’s electricity and monopolizes transmission in Taiwan, suspended a plan to build a coal-fired station in June after a government panel recommended dropping the project because concerns the plant will boost carbon dioxide emissions.

Without new coal plants the island may see its back-up capacity slip to almost zero by 2015, Tu Yueh-yuan, Taiwan Power’s chief engineer, said in April.

There’s been some complaints about the offshore wind program in the environmental community, because planning has been haphazard and hasn’t take into account its impact on local marine ecologies. But any way you slice it, this needs to be done, or we are all going to fry.