Taiwan could tap into the `Kuroshio current' for power


Tue, Aug 07, 2007 - Page 12

Taiwan hopes to build a power plant that will use a strong current flowing off its east coast to generate electricity, an official said yesterday.

The plant is still in the planning stage, but once built, it would be the first plant in Asia to make use of the Kuroshio current -- also known as the Black stream -- that flows along the Pacific Ocean to the east of the country, said Chen Chin-te (陳金德), a Ministry of Economic Affairs official in charge of energy development.

"The current's potential as an energy source was long ignored when oil was cheap," Chen said. "Now we believe it may become Taiwan's biggest asset in terms of a new energy source, more so than solar or wind power."

"You could consider it as a nuclear power plant that does not need plutonium to run," he said.

The Kuroshio is the world's second-largest warm current after the Gulf stream in the Atlantic Ocean. The Kuroshio is known for its strong, fast flow as it passes seas near the Philippines and Taiwan before running northeast toward Japan.

The stream, up to 150km wide, could be a powerful source of energy as it flows steadily at a rate of 1m a second, officials said.

The ministry recently began a three-year feasibility study on the power plant, spending NT$200 million (US$6 million) to survey the Kuroshio current's flow and make preliminary designs of the generators.

Taiwan's proximity to the current's passage -- kilometers off its eastern coast -- enables it to make use of the current's flow better than its neighbors, Chen said.

The plant could be costly to build, Chen said, adding that the generators would have to be installed on the seabed and fastened to the shore with steel cables. But he did not provide a figure.

Taiwan could import technologies from Britain or the US, countries that have more experience building generators, he said.

Taiwan imports 98 percent of its fuel and has been seeking new energy sources, including wind power, biodiesel fuel and alcohol made from sugar canes.