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New rules for putting solar panels in forests

July 12,2018
The Ministry of Environment announced Monday it will draft and implement detailed guidelines on where solar panels can be installed from next month, after some installations in forests led to deforestation and landslides.

“The guidelines are in response to the rising criticism against deforestation after solar panels were installed in forests and mountainous areas because of the relatively cheaper price of land,” an official of the ministry told the JoongAng Ilbo.

The ministry said that 38 percent of the solar and wind energy facilities built from 2016 to last March were built in forests and on mountains, 25 percent on farmlands and 18 percent in the ocean. Of the solar and wind energy facilities built in forests and on mountains, solar energy facilities accounted for 88 percent.

Clearing forests so that solar panels can be installed has led to landslides recently. Solar panels being put up in a mountainous region in Cheongdo County, North Gyeongsang, on a plot the size of four soccer fields, came crashing down in a landslide on July 3, when typhoon Prapiroon brought torrential rain to southern parts of Korea. A road in the vicinity had to be closed to traffic for hours due to the landslide.

The ministry said the guidelines will order companies to avoid erecting solar panels in mountainous areas with inclines of more than 15 degrees, as well as naturally preserved areas such as the Baekdudaegan Mountain Range and habitats of endangered species.

This will also provide companies the best installation practices to minimize their impact on the natural environment.

Solar energy has been rising as a renewable energy option in recent years. It dominated global investment in new energy sources in 2017 according to a UN Environment Program report in April.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is trying to scale down national dependency on coal and nuclear power and issued a plan last December to ensure that from 2018 to 2030, more than 95 percent of energy plants being built will be for generation of clean energy sources such as solar and wind power.

BY CHUN KWON-PIL [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]