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Solar-powered jail gives inmates a brighter future

Thursday, March 09, 2017 - 01:40

Prisoners have been given the job of installing solar panels on the roof of their jail as part of Taiwan's renewable energy drive. As Sonia Legg reports, the project has benefits way beyond the walls of the jail.

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It's not what he's trained for but Chen's career in the police force took a turn for the worse when he was jailed for bribery. Installing solar power could give him a brighter future when he's released. (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) PRISON INMATE, CHEN, SAYING: (FACE OF INMATE IS BLURRED DUE TO PRISON REQUIREMENTS) "Green energy is the trend now. The government has been pushing it and I think it's good for the environment. So it's good to take part in this." Pingtung prison is helping Taiwan achieve its aim of being free from nuclear power. The electricity created from the panels doesn't just power the jail - it's also fed into the island's grid. Once the project is complete the prison will supply around 600 homes. (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) CEO OF LIXMA TECH, THOMAS HSU, SAYING: "Pingtung is probably the only jail in the world with this large space for green energy, so it's good for promoting it. And besides generating power, it makes the environment in the prison better." Renewable energy currently provides less than five per cent of Taiwan's power. The government aims to quadruple that by 2025 and reduce nuclear power from 14 percent. (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) HEAD OF THE GOVERNMENT'S RENEWABLE ENERGY PROJECT, LAURENCE LI, SAYING: "We want to free up government resources and attract investors into the industry, and get people to participate, that's very important." Taiwan's got a long way to go to meet its energy targets, and cost is also an issue. The company installing the panels at Pingtung won't break even until the ninth year of its 20-year contract. Chen hopes to be free by then - and for the time being he may be a little more comfortable. The extra 6,000 solar panels will help cool the prison - a welcome prospect when summer temperatures can reach 33 degrees.

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Solar-powered jail gives inmates a brighter future

Thursday, March 09, 2017 - 01:40