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EPA Reviews and Supervises Offshore Wind Power Projects

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Taiwan has started implementing offshore wind power generation plans in recent years, and the EPA has been keeping continuous attention to related environmental issues. The EPA also conducted reviews on the basis of the strategic environmental assessment (SEA) for offshore wind power and has been providing subsequent environmental impact assessment (EIA) supervisions in accordance with the law. Any violations detected during the supervisions are to be reported and penalized accordingly. 

The EPA explains that to achieve the national renewable energy goals by 2025, the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) has been implementing its offshore wind power projects in three stages: demonstration projects, potential site selection and block developments. The EPA conducted consultations on the Policy Assessment Report Regarding Offshore Wind Power Block Development submitted by the MOEA on 28 December 2016. Any future EIA reviews for the development projects are to be conducted in accordance with the conclusions from the SEA. The conclusions also incorporated pledges to serve as development standards for developers and basis for EIA supervisions.

The EPA indicates that offshore wind power generation is different from any other forms of coastal development activities that Taiwan has experienced in the past. Therefore, in the review conclusions, the EPA requested the submission of environmental impact survey reports on bird habitats. In addition, the development projects are to measure underwater noise based on the measuring method devised by the National Institute of Environmental Analysis. The current underwater noise threshold stipulates that the sound exposure level (SEL) shall not exceed 160 dB (average SEL measured within 30 seconds of pile driving) at a distance of 750 meters from the alert zone. Some citizens and private organizations have expressed concern about whether the current threshold is enough to protect Chinese White Dolphins from harmful effects. Hence, the EPA also requested that the EIA documents of individual projects shall stipulate that when the competent authority or the industry competent authority develops stricter underwater noise thresholds, these thresholds shall be adopted accordingly. This way the EPA will be able to carry out supervision based on the stricter thresholds when they come up in the future. 

In addition, the EPA worked with the Ocean Conservation Administration (OCA) and created the Taiwan Cetacean Observer Operation Manual as one of the pledge documents for EIAs in marine ecology and conservation and to provide a consistent standard for developers. The EPA also enhanced EIA supervision on the construction of wind farms through law enforcement technology tools and cross-ministerial cooperation. Moreover, to reduce the environmental impacts of development activities, the EPA arranged assistance from experts and scholars to supervise developers to ensure they carry out environmental protection measures. When any evidence of violation is detected during the supervisions, developers are to be penalized in accordance with the law. The EPA cited the example of the Formosa 1 Offshore Wind Farm in Miaoli County, where the numbers of observation boats or observers were found to be insufficient in 2019. After the violations were confirmed, violators were fined NT$1.5 million, the maximum fine under the Environmental Impact Assessment Act.

The EPA states that the wind farms that have passed the EIA reviews will start construction in 2021 in the order of their commissioning year. As for the developers who plan to build new wind farms and have started EIA processes, the EPA will conduct EIA reviews in accordance with the proper procedures, and supervise the development projects after they pass the reviews to ensure the implementation of EIA pledges. This way a win-win situation between economic development and environmental protection will be achieved.

Excerpt from Major Environmental Policies, Jan 2021

Ministry of Environment