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The downside of green

Nov 12,2018
The proliferation of solar panels under the frenzied implementation of green policies actually poses an environmental threat.

In the construction of solar farms, 2 million trees have been felled and nearly 30 square kilometers, or 11.6 square miles, of forest has been lost over the last 15 years, according to a report by the Korea Environment Institute. That explains why so many panels are swept off hills and mountainsides during floods.

The cost on greening is bound to go higher. Under the liberal government’s campaign to raise the share of energy sourced from renewables to 20 percent, in line with the phase-out of nuclear reactors by 2030, an extra 444 square kilometers of space, an area equal to 73 percent of Seoul, is needed to host solar panels.

Since 61 percent of the solar panels will be installed in agricultural areas, the crowding out of green space to make room for the panels will only accelerate. An energy policy must consider the economic, security and environmental consequences of implementation.
Solar panels do not just cause harm to the countryside. They are also expensive. The government buys power generated by solar panels at 170 ($0.15) to 180 won per kWh and sells it at 100 won.

To reach the 2030 goal, it would have to spend extra 144 trillion won. The stability in supply is also questioned. Korea’s climate does not have the sun to ensure a steady power supply. The pollution from the installation the panels is also a concern, especially for the communities near the construction sites.

Of the 4,450 solar power businesses licensed over the last 15 years, 66 percent have been permitted since January last year. People have rushed into the sector after the government announced the policy intended to phase out nuclear fuel.

Solar panels could cover most of the reclaimed land in Saemangeum for both industrial and other purposes. The reckless pursuit of renewables can actually do more harm to the environment than good. Authorities must examine what energy sourcing is best for the Korean environment.

JoongAng Sunday, Nov. 10, Page 34