South Korea Pioneers Solar and Tidal Energy

South Korea is in the process of constructing both the world's largest solar power station and the largest tidal energy power plant. These projects will go a long way toward achieving the South Korean government's target of generating 5 percent of their energy from alternative energy within seven years.

Like Japan, South Korea has few fossil-fuel resources and is therefore dependent on oil and gas imports. The country is being hit hard by the rise in international crude oil prices.

Construction of the 15-megawatt solar power station is set to begin in February for completion in October 2006. Twelve companies are seeking to establish other solar power stations in the same province, to produce a total of 37 megawatts of solar energy.

The Korean government is developing a 254-megawatt wave power plant that generates electricity from the force and drop of waves and the temperature differences between layers of sea?water. Yeom Gi-dae, a senior researcher of the Korean Ocean Research and Development Institute, said that these tidal technologies could generate 14 million kilowatts, over 20 percent of Korea's 2002 capacity of 50 million kilowatts, while causing little environmental damage. The plant is scheduled to be completed by 2009.

South Korea's claim to the largest solar plant may be short-lived. Israel has announced plans to build a solar power plant with more than six times greater capacity than the Korean plant.

—Rik Langendoen
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