Thu, Aug 09, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Experts urge Taiwan to use its marine resources

BOUNTY OF THE SEA:Scientists cited as an example the power of the Kuroshio Current, which if harnessed could produce enough electricity to replace nuclear power

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Marine experts yesterday said the geographical and geological features of the oceans surrounding Taiwan give it advantageous natural resources, such as a strong sea current with which it could generate electricity.

During a press conference held at the National Science Council, Gong Gwo-ching (龔國慶), a professor with the National Taiwan Ocean University’s (NTOU) Institute of Marine Environmental Chemistry and Ecology, stressed the fundamental importance of marine scientific research in improving knowledge of global climate change and national resources.

Gong said approximately NT$300 million (US$10 million) is spent on marine science research every year in Taiwan — which is not much compared with what is spent on many other high-tech industries — yet the ocean contains knowledge critical to understanding global environmental issues and that could be of enormous economic value.

“The ocean takes up 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and also absorbs carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, contributing to global climatic and weather regulations,” Gong said,

Citing the results of some marine research projects as an example, such as uncovering the positive impact of typhoons and sandstorms in increasing the ocean’s level of carbon dioxide absorption and the amount of organisms and fish, and the discovery of methane hydrate ice — a natural gas resource — under the sea near Greater Kaohsiung, Gong said the government should treasure the uniqueness of Taiwan’s marine environment.

Director of NTOU’s Research Center for Ocean Energy and Strategies Hsu Tai-wen (許泰文) said although the amount of usable methane hydrate ice is still unclear, a research project to deep drill in the area has been planned so as to give a more precise estimate of the total amount and evaluate whether it can be extracted.

In addition, Gong said the speed of the swiftly flowing Kuroshio Current 50m below the sea’s surface is about 100cm per second, which is far above the 50cm per second needed for a turbine generator to operate steadily, therefore this resource could be developed to generate electricity.

Yang Tsan-yao (楊燦堯), a professor of geochemistry at National Taiwan University (NTU) said a research project led by NTU in cooperation with NTOU is already conducting experiments with underwater current turbine generators in a laboratory, with the goal of setting up turbine clusters in the ocean outside near Taitung County and Green Island (綠島), where the Kuroshio Current flows.

The goal of the experiment in the coming four years is to generate up to 30 megawatts from the turbine generators. It has been estimated that if the method works efficiently, a commercial power plant may be able to generate up to 10 gigawatts — equivalent to two nuclear power plants, Yang said.

However, the experiment is still at its initial stage and the current turbine generator in the laboratory can only generate kilowatts of electricity at this point, he added.

Gong said the government should place marine science research at the level of national security, conceive of it as policy and also initiate cross-ministerial research projects.

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