Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Taiwan mulls current power generation

The government is now discussing the possibility of large-scale ocean current power generation, using the strong Kuroshio current off the east coast of Taiwan to generate up to 1.68 trillion kilowatt-hours per year, officials at the Council for Economic Planning and Development said on Monday.

The project task force, led by Chen Fa-lin - director of Energy and Environment Research Laboratory under Hsinchu-based Industrial Technology Research Institute, is currently working on fine-tuning the guidelines, which will be presented to CEPD senior officials in August or September.

After the project is green-lighted, the possible first step should be setting up a five-megawatt marine turbine off Taiwan's east coast on a trial basis, with the goal of testing both related technologies and power-generating efficiency, CEPD officials, adding that hopefully, the project can enter the next stage in three years.

"Current power generation is not a new idea," officials noted. "Countries like Britain, Canada, Norway, and Australia all have experience in deploying offshore marine turbines with capacities ranging from one megawatt to eight megawatts to support the electricity demand of hundreds to thousands of households."

"The problem is not the technology itself but how to locate a suitable site - with a current strong enough, an undersea shelf not too deep, and a distance short enough to achieve power supply efficiency," they added.

However, they explained that based on the surveys done by National Taiwan University, the sea area of some 6,000 square kilometers between the eastern county of Taitung and the outlying Green Island in the Pacific Ocean appears to meet all the requirements, and that the maximum potential capacity there exceeds 1.68 trillion kilowatt- hours per year - while Taiwan's current annual demand of electricity is only about 98 billion kilowatt-hours.

According to the estimates of the project task force, a given site of 25 square kilometers located in the "shallow, high-speed zone" could support the deployment of 1,000 one-megawatt marine turbines, which would have a peak capacity of 1,000 megawatts: equal to the output of Taiwan's second nuclear power plant.

Chen, the project leader, noted that once the turbines enter commercial operation, Taiwan's coal power plants could be retired, while the nuclear power generators could be used as a backup system - thereby resulting in a great reduction in Taiwan's total carbon dioxide emissions.


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