The Taipower company is currently emphasizing the increased use of clean-burning natural gas (LNG), the reduced use of coal, and the development of green-energy resources.
The company’s 2019 emission-reduction report card revealed that, in that year, Taipower had already achieved its original goal of halving its 2016 air pollution emission intensity by 2030. In consequence, Taipower has increased its environmental commitment to further decreasing emissions from its thermal power plants. The new goals are to cut emission intensity by 60% in 2025 and 70% in 2030 from 2016 levels.
Improved efficiency from equipment upgrades
Vice president and chief executive of Taipower’s power generation division, Chen Chien-yih, noted that the utility’s Taichung Power Plant has completed equipment upgrades for units 1 to 4 and is currently undertaking upgrades for units 5 to 10. These upgrades will equip the plant with the world’s most advanced technologies. “If Taipower says it can be done then it will be done, and the promised goals may even be surpassed,” Chen said.
In addition to emissions reductions that have resulted from equipment updates, Taipower’s phased approach to carry out during unit overhaul has also highlighted the company’s efforts to reduce emissions.
At the Taichung Power Plant, for example, coal consumption reached 18.39 million tons in 2014. In contrast, the figure had dropped to 12.64 million tons by 2019, a decrease of nearly 6 million tons. This year, Taipower expects coal usage to fall even further.
Despite this steady decline in coal reliance, Chen emphasized that Taiwan’s shortage of domestic energy resources makes it extremely difficult to become entirely coal-free. Although coal consumption will decrease over time, retaining coal-fired options will remain crucial for national energy security. By maintaining a coal inventory of more than 30 days, Taipower will be able to cope with any potential supply disruptions.
Gas-fired and green energy units complement each other
To improve power-generation efficiency, Taipower uses gas-fired, combined cycle units. In the first cycle, the combustion of natural gas drives a turbine that generates electricity and produces gases with temperatures of nearly 600 degrees Celsius. In the second cycle, a heat recovery steam generator captures these hot gases and uses them to generate more electricity. At present, the efficiency of new unit has been increased to over 60%.
Chen Chien-yih pointed out that gas-fired power generation produces nitrogen oxides but almost no particulate matter or sulfur oxides emissions. Moreover, through catalytic conversion, new units can reduce the concentration of nitrogen oxides to below 5 ppm (parts per million), which is far lower than the 16 to 20 ppm produced by old units.
Chen likened a power plant to a high-tech factory. “The operation must be very stable, neither too fast nor too slow. When measuring power quality, Taipower pays special attention to whether it can maintain a constant power frequency and voltage.”
In the future, green energy’s share of total power generation may exceed 20%. While green energy is carbon-free, it is also an intermittent energy source. Fortunately, combined cycle units possess a rapid start-stop feature that allows them to provide timely support for green energy. When used in combination, the two power sources complement each other to make the power system more stable.
Transforming power plants into ecological parks
Chen recalled that when he joined Taipower 40 years ago, the company had just installed its first electrostatic precipitator. At the time, this was considered major progress. The company subsequently affirmed its commitment to adopting the latest technologies when it installed flu gas desulfurization and denitrification equipments. This commitment to technological adoption has enabled the company to consistently improve its performance while ensuring a stable power supply.
In more recent years, Taipower’s commitment to innovation has resulted in increased support for the environment. In 2013, the Wanda Power Plant successfully managed to cultivate a unique species of endemic Taiwanese soybean that was discovered nearby and transformed itself into an ecological power plant and environmental education center. Later, through the efforts of its employees, the Linkou Power Plant successfully re-introduced native lilies to the area around its facility. Now, the planned Hsieh-Ho Power Plant will take the creative step of building an observation platform on its stack. The platform will provide a panoramic view of the northeast coast and serve as a new landmark for the city of Keelung.
Moreover, Chen said that Taipower will respond to the public’s increasing concerns about aesthetics by engaging in “advanced deployment” – beautifying its power plants and treating them as an opportunity to create largescale examples of public art.