With focus on solar and offshore wind, Taiwan should not neglect geothermal

With focus on solar and offshore wind, Taiwan should not neglect geothermal Mount Datun near Taipei/ Taiwan (source: flickr/ Wei-Te Wong, creative commons)
Alexander Richter 14 Feb 2020

More needs to be done to push geothermal development in Taiwan. Despite great potential, challenges remain and current development target is not sufficient for the renewable energy targets by the government.

Taiwan is progressing on its 20% renewables goal, but it becomes obvious that there are shortcomings of solar and wind. Land use for solar is a challenge and offshore wind is too costly and environmentally disruptive, so a recent article from Taiwan.

Another key challenges is the intermittency of those technologies in the power supply. With its focus on solar and wind, Taiwan has been neglecting other forms of renewable energy, such as geothermal energy, biofuel and marine power.

Taiwan has set itself a target of eliminating nuclear power by 2025, a rather tight deadline, as it also has a significant capacity of coal fired power plants.

Geothermal energy is therefore an attractive option for Taiwan with resources and development ambitions, we have been reporting on over the years.

Several geological surveys have been conducted by the government indicating a potential of up to 32 GW, which seems a bit high, yet highlights great potential for geothermal energy development in Taiwan. The geothermal goal of the government is though rather modest with a planned 200 MW geothermal power generation capacity by 2025.

There are though challenges due to the geology of Taiwan. Li Yi-heng, a senior researcher at the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI)’s Energy & Environment Research Laboratories, sees the “island’s complex geological formations and vertical faults pose a major obstacle”. The most accessible geothermal resources are adjacent to volcanoes, which means for Taiwan only at the volcano at Datum Mountain in the north of the island.

Additional, the areas with the most potential are within aboriginal lands, national parks, or slope lands – essentially off limits to development. Another challenges are the lack of clear rules related to the ownership of the resource once it is descovered.

Taiwan has established attractive feed-in-tariffs for renewable energy, including geothermal energy. We reported on the update for 2020 in January of this year. A push for higher FIT by the Taiwan Geothermal Association was not fruitful.

Today, several small exploration proejcts are ongoing by state-owned enterprises Taiwan Power Co. and CPC Corp. Taiwan together with ITRI. The largest projects is at Datun Mountain has a planned development target of 150 MW of the total 200 MW goal for Taiwan.