Category Archives: Pingtung County, Taiwan

Vision for a Smarter County

My colleagues and I started our journey with Pingtung County three weeks ago and it seems like just yesterday.  At that time, we were introduced to the challenge facing this county –

Pingtung County in southern Taiwan, experienced the devastating effects of Typhoon Morakot in 2009.  Representative parts of the county sit below sea level and yet are home to agriculture and other economic ventures.  The crisis from this typhoon led Pingtung County to rethink the way in which they would move forward into the future around multiple dimensions in order to improve and impact citizen well being. Their work has included investment in renewable energy programs and other environmental activities in the hopes of developing a more sustainable community and life for their citizens.  They are now looking to continue their progress with a new vision and roadmap for the future that integrates these key technologies and delivers new levels of impact for its citizens.

We engaged as an IBM team to help them with this vision and a roadmap that would incorporate their successes with renewable energy to date, build upon those successes in the form of new technologies and smart grid concepts, and help map a long term strategy for the future working both locally and with national Taiwan entities.

What we found when we arrived was an established vision, broadly speaking, for renewable energy in the county driven by Magistrate Tsao and supported by his very capable leadership team.  This vision coupled with outsized passion and diligent execution by the Pingtung County team allowed the county to deliver solid outcomes over the last four years and deliver a strong foundation from which they could move to the next level of sustainability.

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During our three week project we had the pleasure of meeting with over 60 stakeholders in 39 briefings.  All of this information made for better conclusions and recommendations by the IBM team and allowed us to really get to know the local environment.  Thanks to Pingtung County and Lisa Huang for their hard work to coordinate all of these activities and make them happen so flawlessly!

On Friday, we presented our Smarter Cities Challenge final report to the Magistrate and his team.  IBM was represented by the Smarter Cities Challenge executive team, Taiwan Country General Manager Jennifer Hwang and distinguished guests from the IBM  Greater China Group and Taiwan teams.

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In our final report we made a series of recommendations that address the county´s greatest challenges to integrating their renewable portfolio and creating a more self sufficient model.  Recommendations around integrated grid operations and analytics will allow the county to analyze very specifically those indicators that will deliver outcomes and impact in the community including key environmental indicators.

The road ahead will be an interesting one for the county taking the next step in their sustainable future.  The task at hand is not easy, but at the same time this county has taken on challenges much greater and succeeded.  We have seen this first hand spending time with them and we look forward to seeing what they do next.

I would like to acknowledge and thank the many people we have had the good fortune to work with over the last several weeks.  On behalf of my IBM colleagues, a special thanks to Magistrate Tsao and the entire Pingtung County team.

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Thanks to the extended IBM team including Jennifer Hwang, Lisa Chen, Anny Tseng, our translators Tina and Valeria, and our master of logistics Red!  There were also many others from IBM Taiwan and our local businesses that we thank by extension.

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…and thanks to my executive colleagues on the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge team.  I speak for all of us in saying we thoroughly enjoyed the experience working together on behalf of the Pingtung County team, citizens and community on this important project.

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We have now all departed Taiwan and are back in our respective countries with our families.  We look back on what was a life changing event for all of us thanks to the people of Pingtung County and Taiwan.  We say a heartfelt thank you and goodbye to our IBM friends from Taipei.

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…and this great country.

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Building global community in Pingtung!

As an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge team we are in Taiwan to help the county of Pingtung address important energy challenges for the county and the future well-being of its citizens.  In addition to the project itself, one of the more enjoyable parts of the Smarter Cities Challenge project is the work we as IBMers get to do in the local communities with schools and with kids.

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The goal of these interactions is to give back locally to the community and to thank them for their kind hospitality towards IBM.  We focused this trip on teaching Taiwanese kids English words or phrases, teaching them how to use English when interacting in everyday situations (such as going to a convenience store), and teaching them songs or topics that integrate with their school lesson plans.  The amazing thing, while we were here to help teach them, is just how much we learned in the process about the local traditions and culture, much of which has been passed down orally over many generations.  We simply had a great time teaching these kids and learning from them.

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These kids, working with their teachers and principals, invested many days preparing for the IBM team, rehearsing their programs and delivering flawlessly for us.  In some cases they worked 3-4 days and over weekends on their preparation.  In one case, the students from Taiwu were actually competitive in the US Grammy process for one of their performances.  We were all very impressed.

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Moneshia wrote in one of our earlier blogs about our time in Taiwu (pictured above) with that community.  Taiwu is an aboriginal village of the Paiwanese culture, rebuilt after Typhoon Morakot.  She described in the blog the spiritual nature of our visit, the passion of the Principal at the school and the things we did with the kids on that visit.  It was a wonderful time!

Also early in our visit to Pingtung County we had the pleasure of seeing another traditional dance and that was the Dragon Dance from the kids at Yuh-Kang Elementary School.  Fantastic precision from these kids and the IBM team did a little dance of its own!

Yuh-Kang Kids

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IBM team – note the difference in fine motor skills and coordination between the two!

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The final day of community service, a full day, was spent in Kenting located on the southern tip of Taiwan.  Kenting is a beautiful part of Pingtung County, home to the Maanshan nuclear plant which we visited as part of our project and the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium.  The aquarium had many features, exhibits and fish in common with my hometown Georgia Aquarium.  A great facility here in Taiwan that many people may not know about because of its location, but a lot of credit is owed to Dr. Fan and his team for their work maintaining a world class aquarium for many years.

Maanshan plant

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Sculpture outside aquarium

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View of Kenting Coast from behind aquarium

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Our time in Kenting was short but we had the chance to spend a full day with two groups of kids.  First, at Kenting Elementary School we divided up into 5 groups with each IBM Executive teaching a classroom of kids of varying ages songs such as Farmer in the Dell and asking each other questions in English and Mandarin / Taiwanese.  We talked about families, brothers, sisters and other normal topics.  The kids were very inquisitive and what you learn is that kids are the same all around the world.

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The school also has what they call an English Village on one floor of the school where the kids learn how to buy food at a 7-11 convenience store (very big chain in Taiwan), check in at an airport and other everyday activities.  I think the kids very much enjoyed the interaction and enjoyed showing how much they know about English and the world they live in.

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In the afternoon we spent time in Hengchun village with a school teaching the ancient musical art of the Moon Lute.  There is a giant sculpture of the moon lute as you enter the village and many of the kids grow up learning it.

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We spent time with the kids hearing their performances.  Their performances were phenomenal; very rhythmic with wonderful emotion and with a variety of instruments including the moon lute.  Another school with a very passionate Headmaster and strong teachers that loved their kids and their craft.

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The Headmaster used some creativity to bring the IBM team and kids together by creating a competition where each of the 5 IBM executives broke into groups with the kids and their teacher, taught the kids a song and then presented the song in front of the group.  All the groups were high achievers, bringing creative motion and “interpretation” to their songs.

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These events were all wonderful and could not have been made possible without the wonderful leadership of our Community Service Coordinator Anny Tseng and a big help from our Corporate Citizenship Advisor Lisa Chen and our IBM Taiwan volunteers.  Anny did a wonderful job coordinating all of the events, developing a great relationship with the Principals and schools, and ensuring the IBM team had everything they needed to succeed with these kids.  Thanks Anny!

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In the end it was the least we could do as an IBM team to show our commitment to a country and county that has treated us very well over our three weeks.  We will all have life long lasting memories of these communities and kids.

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In and around Pingtung County

The first week in Taiwan was very informative, productive and enjoyable for the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge team working with Pingtung County on their renewable challenge.  The IBM team spent much of the week in discovery sessions and site visits for our project working closely with Pingtung County officials and the integrator ecosystem.  The team also spent time with a team of IBM Taiwan professionals who shadowed us as executives, learning about Smarter Cities projects and learning from the executives.  Their input and participation with us was invaluable.  Attached are some of our sights from the first week of the project.  We hope you enjoy them.

Bus ride into Pingtung

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Dapeng Bay Bridge, key scenic landmark in Pingtung

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Working session with Magistrate Tsao

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IBM team at Bao´an Temple

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IBM team at one of several solar farm site visits

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Paul at the hydrogen fuel cell evaluation riding a fuel cell powered scooter

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Street food in Pingtung County

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Jim and Diamond at a site briefing

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Team huddle at Taiwu community service event before an ad hoc presentation

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Moneshia participating in a dragon dance

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Lisa demonstrating her expertise de-boning fish

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Sunset in Linbien Township

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Visit to Paiwanese Aboriginal School for Day of Service

An instrumental component of the smarter city challenge experience is community service. Today we visited the Taiwu Elementary school, which is devoted to the education of Painwanese children, one of Taiwan’s many indigenous communities. The Paiwanese represent 18% of Taiwan’s indigenous population. Like many aboriginal populations the Paiwanese are proud of their heritage. According to the legend, their origins can be traced to the poisonous hundred-pace snake laying an egg in a clay pot. The pot was basked in the sunshine, and broke into two, and a boy came into being. The boy was brought up by a family in the tribe, and later he became a chief. For this reason, the Paiwan people view the sun, hundred-pace snake and clay pot is the symbol of a chief. These symbols adorn their buildings and inspire the jewelry and beads made by the tribes women today. The fables, legends and songs are being preserved and celebrated at the Tai-wu school through the passionate efforts of the teachers and parents.

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We had a great time at Tai-wu. We were warmly welcomed by the school Principal, who spearheaded the relocation of the school to the foot of the mountain when the Typhoon hit their ancestral mountainside after Typhoon Morakot damaged the Paiwanese school and homes situated on the mountain. The Principal’s welcome was followed by a traditional ceremony where Paiwanese cries pierced the air to ward off evil spirits upon on our arrival. Afterwards we crossed over the fire threshold which represented our communion with the benevolent gods.

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The children has prepared a beautiful song sung in their local dialect, in traditional costume, full of poetry and very romantic.

Afterward they performed “Muni’s adventure”, a story of a Paiwanese girl whose mother wants to visit ancestors in the mountains. However, Muni laments the loss of MacDonalds and Facebook access (sound familiar?) only to be won over by forest animals (pigs, butterfly, snakes) in the end. The story was written up in a woodblock print book and nominated for a local grammy award!

For alternative perspectives check out the live interview by the local news channel 原住民電視台 (Taiwan Indigeneous TV)

and a local blog perspective from one of our mentees from IBM Taiwan, Michael Kuo. Michael works for Global Business Services, IBM Taiwan (second row, second from right).

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(Each of us had a “shadowee” for the week of meetings with key stakeholders working in the county on renewable energy initiatives. For most of them it was their first time in rural Taiwan, the first opportunity to interact with their fellow countrymen in the townships or with aboriginal clans.)

By Michael Kuo: A wonderful experience at Taiwu Elementary School

The Paiwan tribe is one of the nine major native tribes in Taiwan, and live in high mountain area. They love wood carving, singing and dancing. The original Taiwu Elementary School locating at one of Paiwan villages was destroyed by typhoon, so they rebuilt village and school at current location with NGO’s support. Before moving to new school, they had 2 years hard time to study at a temporary school. When we arrived this beautiful school, Principal & teachers and students wore traditional costumes to welcome us with a traditional Paiwanese ceremony. They were so hospitable and we really enjoyed it.

Kids performed traditional dances and sang songs with Paiwan language to welcome us. Wood carvings made by children are everywhere and all traditional cultures were blended into daily life at school. The subject of this visit was to perform a community service for English teaching. The curriculum is international so we teach current topics such as the Rocky Mountains, Bollywood music, Coffee, and teach them a song. 

Teaching unity song

Then we faced a challenge from kids. Kids will attend English reading competition and would like have preview with us. We were shocked by their wonderful performance … so vivid in our mind. Then it was our turn to perform for the kids (see below) …we were so nervous to rehearse it.

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The school has a main theme on it — tribe’s legend about Sun and hundred-pace Snake. This legend encourages them to respect environment and be stronger to protect it. With principal’s tour guide, we saw how the legend integrated into school layout, just like a snake. And where is Sun? It’s on the roof – as Tai-wu has been selected for rooftop photovoltaic panels to generate solar energy to protect environment.

The Principal and teachers’ passion, children’s optimistic learning are so impressive. We had a wonderful memories at this school.

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As you can see, the SCC team was drawn into the school atmosphere.  According to Confucian philosophy,

“The way of great learning consists in illuminating innate virtues.”

If that is the case,  our contributions have been returned tenfold as everyone who touches  Tai-wu comes away a little more more illumined.

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The Importance of the Integrator Ecosystem in Pingtung County

One of the critical accelerators for the renewable energy initiatives in Pingtung County is the work of a network or ecosystem of system integrators that invest their time, talent and treasure to make renewables happen in southern Taiwan.  Many of these people are locals who have gone away for education and skill building, only to return to their home areas to deliver that set of skills back into their country.  Others are investors that view Pingtung as a great test bed for new ideas in the renewable energy arena.

With the support and encouragement from Magistrate Tsao, this group is building and testing interesting technologies — photovoltaics, biogas technologies, storage technologies and others — that will be critical to the success of the Microgrid efforts and Pingtung overall.  As with any endeavor, it is important to test many different things to see which makes the most sense and stick in a given environment.

The IBM team spent much of the first week with these integrators learning about the technologies and the specific projects they are implementing around Pingtung County that might be applied in the Microgrid demonstration area.  We have highlighted some of those here.

Lee Chang Yung Group (LCY) – investments primarily in photovoltaic farms with a demonstration house located with one of the farms.

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Arima EcoEnergy Tech. Corp. – investments in photovoltaic farms

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Asia Pacific Fuel Cell Technologies, Ltd. (APFCT) – investments in hydrogen fuel cell technology as well as an associated distribution system to make the fuel cell technology portable and more supportable.

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Sunny Rich System Co., Ltd. – investments in photovoltaic farms and using those renewable investments to support organic produce and alternative growing method investments.

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The Opportunity in Linbien Township

Linbien Township is a small municipal jurisdiction in Pingtung County and in many ways representative of Pingtung County as a whole.  The community is rural in nature with aquaculture and agriculture as its primary industries.  The signature crop in Linbien is the wax apple, in which the local citizens take great pride.  At the same time, the wax apple is representative of all the things destroyed with Typhoon Morakot and rebuilt by the town in the years after.

Linbien Township, led by Chief Xin-Zeng Zheng, is the center of gravity for renewable energy technology activity in Pingtung County and the primary location of focus for the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge team working within Pingtung County.

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Linbien Township  is a coastal town on the west coast of Taiwan framed by the Taiwan Strait and the Linbien river along with many other streams and water sources inland from the sea.  There are more than 300 hectares of fish farms here, all small ponds full of water and in need of electricity to aerate the ponds.

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Much of the Township consists of low lying lands below sea level.  These geographic characteristics present very practical challenges for the town like the need to have fully operational pumping stations which pump the constant flow of ground water out of the town and to the river or sea.  Pumps like this require 24/7 electricity for the pumps as well as expensive back up power.  The geography also requires a strong and sturdy dike system as well as the careful location of key infrastructure and services to keep the town protected from catastrophes.  In many ways, Linbien has the same geographic challenges as New Orleans in the United States when it comes to hurricane protection.

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Linbien Chief Zheng at the Linbien Pumping Station

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The team on the dike between the pumping station and the Linbien River

Pingtung County has a number of renewable energy efforts underway today and many of those are taking place in Linbien Township.  From photovoltaic farms to hydrogen fuel cell exploration, the county and its committed ecosystem of integrators are investing and working hard to get their program to scale.

One way Pingtung County plans to test and operationalize their renewable efforts in an integrated way is through a Microgrid demonstration site in Linbien.  They will use several government facilities coupled with rail lines and other infrastructure to make this happen.  The main government facilities will be schools like the Pingtung County Linbien Junior High School and the new Pingtung County Town Hall pictured below.

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The IBM analysis and set of recommendations will focus on a review of the current Pingtung Microgrid plan, feedback on technologies and areas of improvement and a roadmap for the future.

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Pingtung County Kickoff, Press Conference – We Begin!

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As an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge team we are in Taiwan to help the county of Pingtung address their challenges integrating and optimizing the use of renewable energy technology.

Counties in Taiwan are similar to states in the US, smaller government jurisdictions, led by a leader called a Magistrate.  Pingtung County occupies the southern tip of Taiwan between the Pacific Ocean and the Strait of Taiwan.  The county is one of the poorer in Taiwan rooted in aquaculture and agriculture industries with less resources than most Taiwanese counties, yet through the vision of one man, Magistrate Chi-Hong Tsao the county has set forth on a compelling course for the future.

The driver for change came in 2009 when Pingtung County experienced the devastating effects of Typhoon Morakot.  Representative parts of the county such as Linbian Township sit below sea level and much of these low lying areas were destroyed by the Typhoon.  While not damaged in the Typhoon, Pingtung is also challenged with having one of Taiwan´s three nuclear reactors in its county.  The county foresaw too much future risk after the typhoon´s impact and Japan´s Fukushima incident to not push to become more energy self sufficient and reduce vulnerabilities in its energy infrastructure.

The crisis from the typhoon led to a new day in Pingtung County with the leaders dramatically rethinking the way they operate — from economics, to environment, to energy management, to urban development and management to citizen well being. Progress in these areas has been made in the years following the catastrophe.  Public and private initiatives have included significant deployments of photovoltaic farms, fuel cell technology development, biogas initiatives, and policies established to govern the ecological use of land.

However, the way in which these important pieces fit together in the Pingtung County vision for the future is still being developed.  The IBM Smarter Cities Challenge team will work with Pingtung County to develop a strategic roadmap for the short and long term time horizons and one that utilizes the excellent progress made to date.  Additionally, the IBM recommendations will clarify the vision and the way in which the County’s citizens play a part in that vision for future quality of life improvements, economic stability, and reduction in ecological vulnerabilities.

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Earlier this week we had the project kickoff at the Pingtung County Town Hall, Magistrate Tsao gave an empassioned speech about the devastation he and his citizens experienced with Typhoon Morakot, the rebuilding process undertaken, and the vision he has for the future.  His great passion shows through remarkably and clearly left a mark on the IBM team with the responsibility we all have.

IBM Taiwan Country General Manager Jennifer Hwang followed the Magistrate and talked about IBM´s commitment to Taiwan and to Smarter Cities programs around the world.  Pingtung County embodies the spirit, energy and commitment to execution that we as IBM share with our company, our people and our Smarter Cities Challenge program.  Jennifer reflected on the wonderful opportunity we have as IBM to help Pingtung County with this important initiative.

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Pingtung County arranged for local school kids to share the day with us and perform a number of traditional dances.  The kids were as passionate as the Magistrate and did such a fantastic job.  The IBM team was entranced and thoroughly enjoyed the dance of these kids.

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Following the kickoff and press conference we took one last set of pictures before we launched into work knowing the challenge and opportunity ahead for all of us.  It was very clear that this is important to Pingtung County and critical in the eyes of the Magistrate to build the future for his citizens.  The IBM team is ready for the challenge.

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