Taiwan is grappling with the after-effects of a massive power outage that plunged millions of residents and businesses into darkness late Thursday. It is believed to be one of the worst power losses ever to have hit the island.
While estimates are still being tallied, representatives from Taiwan's semiconductor industry said today that the two-hour outage could force companies to scrap tens of millions of dollars worth of product caught in the manufacturing pipeline when power was lost.
The blackout struck at 11:30 p.m. local time on July 29, and affected the entire island with the exception of two southern districts, Kaohsiung and Pingtung. The outage, which could rank as the worst ever to strike Taiwan, is said to have left 70% of the island's inhabitants without power.
Authorities for Taipower, Taiwan's government-owned monopoly power company, blamed the catastrophe on a cable tower in Tianan in the island's southern region, which toppled and severed electrical service between southern and northern Taiwan. Officials said a temporary tower will be installed within two weeks, but warned that over the next month they will be unable to generate enough power to meet the needs of all residents and businesses.
This could prove disastrous for companies in Taiwan's Hsinchu Science-based Industrial Park, the island's high-tech center and wafer foundry camp, which is already facing damages as high as $62 million as a result of the blackout.
According to sources, in the event of a loss of power, semiconductor wafers caught in the middle of the weeks-long manufacturing process typically have to be scrapped, while sensitive process equipment must be recalibrated, and several wafer test batches run before operations can return to business as usual. Many of Taiwan's chip makers have emergency back-up power systems, although it is not yet known if the equipment was sufficient to maintain normal production levels.
Moreover, until Taipower can restore full power to the island, Hsinchu's semiconductor industry has been told that it must cut its power consumption by 10%.