Given Taiwan’s location on the Pacific “ring of fire,” its potential for geothermal energy has long been recognized. With more than 4,000 hot spring sites on the island, there is plenty of water to bring geothermal heat to the surface. In some localities, the springs are so hot that tourists bring eggs to hard-boil in hot water bubbling right out of the ground.
However, recognizing the potential does not ensure the ability to harness that potential for electricity. Until very recently, attempts at generating power from geothermal energy have all failed. Attempts in the 1980s by the state-run Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower) ended in a marginal plant that lost productivity over time due to pipe corrosion and silt blockage. Further efforts were cursed with uncertainties ranging from soil acidity to opposition from indigenous peoples holding land rights to some of the most promising sites for geothermal energy. For decades, Taiwan was resigned to treating its geothermal resources as a source of recreation in the form of hot springs rather than an energy resource.