TAIWAN: As Taiwan pushes hard to make its buildings more eco-friendly, homegrown companies are developing new technologies to help realise that vision.
Green Energy Technology, Taiwan’s largest solar wafer manufacturer, has made breakthroughs with its latest product. Its new solar panel should help boost the island’s solar energy supply, by overcoming constraints of land and space.
Traditionally, solar panels are made of glass and installed on the ground or rooftops, but the new panel can also be used to cover the exterior of a building.
“Without using glass, it can be molded into different shapes and designs, including construction materials. For instance, we can place the panels on the exterior of buildings, because it’s much lighter,” said the company's president Swean Lin.
Its lightweight module won Germany’s Red Dot Design Award and went into production earlier this year. The technology can also be applied to such things as electric motorbike solar charging stations.
Green Energy Technology is one of the many Taiwanese firms that are trying to create a greener environment for the island. Taiwan’s green drive began in 1999 when it became the first in Asia to adopt a green building rating system.
“Taiwan has started off with green factories and later there were green buildings. Many government buildings are required to comply with the green building rating system. It has already become a trend here,” said Small & Medium Enterprise Administration director-general Wu Ming-Ji.
Between 2007 and 2017, the number of green buildings on the island jumped more than 80 per cent to nearly 7000, according to the Ministry of Interior. And they can save up to 20 per cent in electricity and 30 per cent in water usage a year.
Taiwan’s leading position in green building technology is now drawing interest from foreign investors as well. US-based Kinestral Technologies has picked Miaoli County of central Taiwan to build its first and biggest smart-tinting glass factory in Asia.
The Silicon Valley startup has invested US$100 million to produce glass panels that can turn from clear to dark within minutes to block out solar heat and glare, and it can achieve the darkest tint in about 3 minutes.
"Most studies show our Halio product can save 20 per cent or more in energy consumed by lighting (and) by cooling, so it's a very significant part of cost saving for buildings,” said Kinestral Technologies CEO S.B. Cha.
The new factory is expected to have a capacity of 400,000 square meters of glass per year, and it’s already planning its second factory in Taiwan next year, which will be 10 times bigger than the first.
The factory’s output is destined mainly for the US, Europe and Japan for now, but it hopes to make Taiwan a key market and a springboard to expand its market to China as well as the rest of Asia.
“Green building in Taiwan has grown to a certain scale. So we hope by integrating the concept with new products would allow local and foreign green building and energy developers to give a boost to the global market," said Wu.