Taiwan pushes smart grid reliability2 November 2017
With an increasingly strained transmission grid affecting reliability, silicon chip manufacturing powerhouse Taiwan is looking to use smart grid technology, storage and renewables to improve its energy outlook. David Appleyard
Amassive blackout that struck Taiwan in August makes the country’s push towardsasmartgridinfrastructure timely. Taiwan’s hi-tech manufacturing economy can ill afford to suffer poor grid reliability, it is, for example, home to some of the world’s largest silicon chip producers, but a brief cut in the gas supply to the 4200 MW Datan power station in Taoyuan City was enough to trigger a cascading failure of the grid. Straining under the demands of a summer heat wave and already wounded by typhoon damage, human error toppled the system.
With the blackout hitting some 7 million people, close to a third of the population, political fallout was inevitable and the minster of Economic Affairs, Lee Chih- kung, immediately resigned. Taiwan is nonetheless pushing hard to reap the reliability benefits of smart grid technology. Smart grids are expected to enable high penetration levels of renewables whilst maintaining grid stability and reliability. Among other benefits, smart grid technology has the advantage of automation and extensive systems performance information, which can enable self-diagnosis and repair in the event of a failure. This is particularly relevant in Taiwan and other countries in the region that can be affected by typhoons and where high winds can bring down transmission and distribution lines, leaving communities without power for a week or more.
Smart grid rollout
Now, a wide-ranging research partnership led by Taiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) and the state- owned utility the Taiwan Power Company (TPC) is supporting the rollout of smart grid technology. As technologies reach maturity they are initially trialled at TPC’s research campus before large-scale installation.
Among the existing smart grid demonstration projects are micro-grid installations on the Taiwanese islands of Dong-Ji and Tai-Ping.
The 20-year smart grid programme is being supported by a proposed US$4 billion investment programme from the Bureau of Energy, part of the Ministry of Economic Affairs. TPC has just begun to implement Phase 1 of the programme, where much of the investmentisfocusedonsmartmetersand the necessary communications infrastructure.
Taiwan’s diverse smart grid strategy falls under phase II of the country’s National Energy Programme which includes the development of energy policy guidelines and a planning and implementation programme for smart grid rollout.
In addition, Taiwan hopes to establish partnerships with international stakeholders to explore elements such as smart metering and consumer energy management, transmission, distribution and microgrid systems and the emergence of virtual power plants which can bring together the various elements of the smart grid story to deliver appropriate energy capacity.
Dr Chen Yen Haw, deputy director of the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research, observed: “Smart Grid is the key component to integrating the value chain between Green Energy and traditional energy”.
Taiwan’s Smart Grid Industry Association recently reported that sales of smart grid products in Taiwan are growing at a compound annual rate of more than 51% and the market is already worth above US$500 million a year.
Taiwan is also reportedly looking to adopt battery technology as part of its smart grid strategy. According to Nikkei reports, the Taiwanese government is planning to approach Tesla to discuss the feasibility of setting up lithium ion battery facilities for energy storage following a project in South Australia that was initiated after widespread blackouts there. Tesla is to provide a 100 MW/129 MWh Powerpack system to be paired with the Hornsdale Wind Farm and due for completion by December.
“Tesla is using its lithium ion battery technology to help Australia and California to implement smart grid and grid storage, and we can learn from them in the future,” Taiwan’s minister of Science and Technology Chen Liang-gee is reported to have said, adding that the government would approach Tesla to discuss opportunities in Taiwan.
Rapid charge, long life batteries made from low-cost and abundant aluminium are also set to emerge from research led by ITRI. Unveiled at the recent All Energy event in Glasgow, aluminium ion batteries could displace the lead-acid batteries commonly found in automotive applications in just two years.Developedinacollaborativeresearch project together with Stanford University in the USA, the aluminium ion technology is expected to possess similar performance characteristics to existing battery designs. However, in contrast to the elements needed for currently dominant technologies such as lithium ion, aluminium is plentiful and easily obtained at a relatively low cost.
Aluminium battery technology is also able to withstand 10 000 charge and discharge cycles without perceptible degradation in performance, a great improvement on many of the existing battery designs and significantly reducing the specific cost.
ITRI lead researcher Dr Chien-Chih Chiang explains that the next phase of development is now aimed at doubling or tripling the storage capacity of the battery technology.
A key part of the smart grid strategy is also to support the roll out of renewable energy, in particular offshore wind. The government under president Tsai Ing-wen has revealed plans to improve interconnection capacity by around a third by 2030 to enhance the use of green energy. This policy also calls for a complete phase out of nuclear power by 2025 and half of the country’s six reactors are currently not operating.
This capacity will be largely be replaced by a huge increase in offshore wind power to 4 GW by 2030 across 36 offshore locations zoned for development. The country’s first two offshore wind turbines (Siemens 4 MW units) are set to be energised shortly, while the rest of the 130 MW Formosa 1 project, featuring 32 machines, is due for completion in 2019. It is located 3-6 km off the west coast of Taiwan and covers an area of 11 km2. In January Danish wind energy developer Dong signed an agreement to acquire a 35% stake in Formosa I from local developer Swancor Renewable.
Apart from its engagement in Formosa I, Dong Energy is also currently developing four offshore wind sites in the Changhua area off Taiwan. The four projects are expected to have a total capacity of at least 2 GW and are due to start construction in 2021-2024, subject to environmental impact assessment and final investment decision.
Northern Power Development Inc has also reportedly revealed plans to develop 1.2 GW of offshore wind projects in the Changhua area together with Yushan Energy, a wholly- owned subsidiary of Enterprize Energy. Construction of the two phase Hai Long development is set to begin in 2019 and commercial operations are anticipated by 2023 or 2024.
Taiwan is also developing its own Typhoon-class floating offshore wind turbine under the second phase of its National Energy Programme, with which Taiwan aims to realise a domestic power production of 2.1 TWh from offshore wind and marine energy by 2020. The Offshore Wind Power and Ocean Energy Master Programme will assist with the completion of a 10 MW+ demonstration offshore wind farm and the development of a domestically produced 5 MW wind turbine, the government says.
Meanwhile, in the last few weeks consultancy group LOC Renewables, part of LOC Group, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with four partners – the CR Classification Society, Taiwan Institute of Economic Research, Taiwan Electric Research & Testing Centre and Electronics Testing Centre – with the intention of furthering offshore wind farm development in Taiwan. Commenting on the deal Dr Liou Ming-Jong, director general of the Bureau of Standards, Metrology & Inspection at Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs, said: “Co-operation with LOC in marine warranty survey (MWS) will play an important part for insurers’ underwriting of Taiwanese offshore wind construction. We plan to have our third party certification team work with LOC to carry out MWS for our offshore wind farms, and further promote these investment opportunities to the whole industry.”
Ultimately Taiwan hopes to increase the contribution of renewables to the national energy mix, hitting 20% by 2025 as it reduces demand for fossil fuel imports and cuts nuclear out of the energy mix. With offshore wind set to take off, smart grid and storage will make a major contribution to achieving that goal.