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Thermal power plant at Taipei Port eyed to avoid power shortages
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-05-21 11:29 AM
Taipower is taking steps to ensure that northern Taiwan will have a sufficient supply of electricity even without existing or planned nuclear power plants. The power company has announced plans for a giant new thermal power plant to be constructed on 250 hectares of reclaimed land at the Port of Taipei in northwestern New Taipei City. The project will add six supercritical coal-fired units to Taiwan’s northern power grid and should meet any power supply needs in the near future even if the controversial Fourth Nuclear Power Plant is shelved and the three currently-operating nuclear plants are eventually shut down.

The big drawback to the thermal option, a project budgeted at close to NT$500 billion, is that it will generate annual carbon emissions of nearly 35 million tons. That figure is certain to rile environmental groups who warn that replacing nuclear power plants with coal-fired plants will simply substitute one environmental problem for another.

Taipower executives explain that planning for the Port of Taipei project was initiated back in 2007. The Keelung Harbor Authority, which owns the land where Taipei Port is located, gave its approval for the huge amounts of coal that would be needed for the plant, but the cost of constructing the plant itself gave Taipower pause. With completion of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant looking more problematic and decommissioning of the company’s other nuclear plants on the north coast already set for 2018 and 2021, planners advised that the thermal plant project could not be further delayed in order to avoid a power supply gap as nuclear generated power becomes unavailable.

Taipower says that if it cannot obtain an extension on the operating life of the First and Second Nuclear Power Plants by the end of this year it will initiate the plan for the thermal power plants at Taipei Port.

Taipei Port is located in Pali District of New Taipei City near the popular Ba-xian (Eight Immortals) Amusement Park. Taipower plans to reclaim 250 hectares of land in the harbor area to house the six power plants as well as causeways for transport and for storage of coal stocks. The six supercritical coal-fired power plant units with an installed capacity of 6000 MW will provide a surplus of 3200 MW if the 2800 MW of the existing nuclear plants is taken off-line.

Taipower notes that the national peak load of in Taiwan reaches a maximum of 33,950 MW during the summer, with consumption in the northern part of the island accounting for 41% of the total. The Keelung Hsieh-ho Plant is scheduled to be decommissioned in 2018, and development of a coal-fired plant at Shen-ao is being held by protests against construction of harbor facilities to handle coal shipments for the plant, leaving the entire project in limbo. That would leave only the Linkou thermal power plant and Hualien’s Ho-ping power plant with a combined output of 3600 MW, far from enough to meet power needs in northern Taiwan even if power is shunted north from the grid in central Taiwan.

Taipower says the entire Taipei Port project will be carried out in two stages, with four thermal units to be constructed in the first stage and two more at a later date. Overall construction is pegged at 13 to 14 years, meaning that some shortages in spare capacity may be encountered beginning in 2019. This should be eased as the plants in the Taipei Port project are completed and brought on line.

The addition of nearly 35 million tons of carbon emissions per year once the six units are fired up will greatly complicate the Ma government's stated goal of reducing annual carbon emissions to the 2000 level of 214 million tons by the year 2015.

Spokesman Yeh Hsin-cheng of the Environmental Protection Agency says that Taipower will conduct necessary environmental impact assessment studies for the land reclamation in connection with the project as well as expected levels of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Li Chuo-han, a founder of Dads Opposed to Nuclear Power, points out that the government needs to sit down and talk with environmental groups about what it will do to handle power supply problems after the nuclear power plants are closed down. Yeh notes that if the government plans to rely entirely on coal fired power plants to make up the shortages, they will encounter fierce opposition from environmental groups.

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