Geothermal energy hold the potential to generate 25.4 gigawatts of electricity in Taiwan

Taiwan’s abundant geothermal energy should be harnessed as an alternative power source, according to a National Science Council-funded study released Aug. 23.

Geothermal energy sites around the country hold the potential to generate 25.4 gigawatts of electricity, nearly 10 times the total capacity of the fourth nuclear power plant now under construction on the northeast coast, the report said.

Hualien and Taitung counties in eastern Taiwan could produce 15.1 GW of electricity, followed by northeastern Yilan County’s 7.4 GW and the Datun volcano group’s 2.9 GW, in Yangmingshan National Park just north of Taipei City, researchers said.

Song Sheng-rong, a geologist with National Taiwan University, said as the geothermal gradient reaches 30 degrees Celsius per kilometer, water in geothermal wells or conduits can be heated into steam, driving a turbine to produce electricity.

“Geothermal energy can help curb our dependence on oil and nuclear energy, and with the upgraded technology now available, become much cheaper than nuclear power,” Song said.

As some areas rich in geothermal energy are located in Taiwan’s remote national parks, however, NSC Deputy Minister Chen Cheng-hong said environmental protection regulations and the difficulty of getting the necessary machinery in place could prove to be obstacles to development.

Officials from the Ministry of Economic Affairs said that while Taiwan has abundant geothermal resources, their quality is not especially good, making large-scale utilization dependent on further technological advancements.

In the short run, they said, a model power plant will be built in Yilan’s geothermal area by the end of next year. Plans are to tap into geothermal energy deep underground before 2025.

The nation’s first geothermal power plant was set up in 1981 near Yilan’s Qingshui River, making Taiwan the 14th country to successfully harness geothermal energy. But owing to fouling in water pipes, operations at the plant were suspended in 1993.