TSMC’s Second 2nm Plant Sparks Environmental Concerns For Water & Power Usage

Image: Ann Wang/Reuters

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The Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company's (TSMC) plans to build a brand new chip manufacturing plant in the island's Taichung city caused its councilor to demand two gas fired electricity plants for managing the facility's power consumption. This plant is designed to produce semiconductors on the advanced 2-nanometer (nm) semiconductor process, and it is planned as TSMC's second facility for 2nm manufacturing. The first facility will be built in Taiwan's Hsinchu city, with the company already having secured environmental approval for it.

TSMC's Taichung 2nm Plant Projected To Use 100,000 Cubic-Meters Of Water Daily and Billions of Kilowatt-Hours of Electricity In A Year

Details of a planned facility in Taichung, which has always been second on TSMC's priorities due to its focus on the 2nm chip plant planned for construction in Hsinchu, were revealed by Taichung City Counsellor Mr. Lin Qifeng. According to him, TSMC's 3nm plant uses 7 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, which is astounding, and given that the 2nm products will feature several advancements over their predecessor, the 2nm facility should require even more energy.

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He highlighted that the environmental assessment committee is worried about the high electricity usage, which it believes has the potential to harm the surrounding environment, ecology and human health. The committee is particularly worried about the high rates of cancers in women in the area, and it hopes that TSMC will provide a public document that explains the 2nm plant's impact on the environment and the local population.

Additionally, he also highlighted that the plant's daily water consumption of 100,000 cubic meters carries the risk of also impacting a coal-based electricity generation platform. To mitigate the impact on the coal fired plant, the Taichung official believes that TSMC should accelerate its switch to renewable energy sources, and if coal based power is not used, then two gas-based plants need to be built.

Water tankers exit TSMC's fab in Taiwan as it navigated a historic drought and chip demand earlier this year. Image: CNA

TSMC already operates two facilities in Taichung, and one of these is responsible for the company's bread and butter. The Taichung Fab 15 is responsible for manufacturing semiconductor products on the N7+ node, which is an advanced design optimization of TSMC"s 7nm process family.

However, the company has now moved over to the 5nm node, which is manufactured in its Fab 18, with an expansion of this facility currently underway. The Taichung site was the target of rumors earlier this year which speculated that TSMC had decided to relocate the plant to Kaohsiung due to water constraints. TSMC rejected these rumors, confirming the plans it had shared at an earlier event.

In other news, the Taiwanese media outlet UDN reports that a document shared by the company with the United States government lists down TSMC's 2021 revenue as $56.6 billion for a 24% annual growth. This report is publicly unavailable on the Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industrial Security's (BIS) website.

The fab's Arizona facilities are moving ahead smoothly, too, with its cleanroom supplier having received guidelines for installing equipment in Arizona. TSMC's Taiwanese partners have also set up their presence in the city that is becoming the epicenter of U.S. chip manufacturing.

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