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New geothermal plant opens in northern Taiwan

Yilan welcomes Renze geothermal power plant with goal of net-zero carbon emissions

New geothermal power plant starts in Yilan County. (CNA photo)

New geothermal power plant starts in Yilan County. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Yilan County’s Renze geothermal power plant launched on Tuesday (Oct. 24), representing progress towards the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) goal of achieving 20 MW of geothermal power capacity by 2025.

The new geothermal plant was jointly developed by Taipower, China Petroleum Corporation, the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), and the MOEA’s Geological Survey and Mining Management Center. Exploration of a suitable site began in 2018, with construction beginning in July 2022, per Storm Media.

Taipower officials said the geothermal plant includes a mine with a shallow depth of around 1,500 meters, with the temperature at the bottom reaching between 180 and 200 degrees Celcius. A heat exchange drives a turbine that generates electricity with no need for geothermal water to pass through power generation equipment.

This design eliminates many problems, such as residue accumulation in pipelines, reducing downtime and cleaning time. Additionally, more than 95% of the tailwater from power generation will be injected back into the plant, effectively maintaining the geothermal reservoir. This advances the plant’s concept of "extracting heat but not water," extending the service life of the power plant and achieving the goals of green energy.

MOEA Deputy Minister Tseng Wen-sheng (曾文生) said the opening of the Renze geothermal power station symbolizes an important milestone for domestic geothermal power generation. Tseng said geothermal is more stable than other renewable energy sources like solar and wind, as power is available at least 70% of the time.

Tseng said the plant only uses 0.2 hectares of land but has a power generation capacity of 0.84 MW, meeting the electricity needs of nearly two-thirds of local residents. As geothermal technology gradually matures, the MOEA will vigorously promote the sector in the future.

Tseng said the development of geothermal power will need new regulations and updated review processes to speed up implementation. He added that geothermal power generation is a good foundation for achieving net-zero carbon emissions.

Taipower said that international demands for carbon neutrality in the global industrial supply chain have spurred it to continue to pursue net-zero electricity generation. This particular geothermal plant is located in the famous Jiuzhize (Renze) hot springs. Geothermal exploration began in the 1970s with two geothermal wells: Renze No. 1 and Renze No. 2.

However, technological development at the time prevented geothermal power plants from being set up. It was not until 2018 that a national geothermal power generation team was created, drilling new wells, Renze No. 3 and Renze No. 4, and restarting the plant for geothermal power generation in the area.