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Geothermal Plant To Get Major Efficiency Upgrade

Contact Energy Wairakei Geothermal Plant To Get Major Efficiency Upgrade

Contact Energy Limited today announced a substantial new investment at its Wairakei power station to increase output from the plant using the same amount of geothermal energy as at present.

“The new binary plant will make more efficient use of the geothermal energy resource and provide an additional 14.4 megawatts of new generating capacity to the national electricity system,” Contact Energy’s chief executive, Mr Steve Barrett said.

The plant uses new technology that is designed to recycle geothermal heat through a secondary generating system, thereby making even greater use than at present of the Wairakei resource to meet national electricity needs.

"New Zealand needs additional generation as electricity demand grows and supply becomes more constrained with the wind-down of the Maui gas field. Along with other electricity industry initiatives, the upgrade will assist in reducing the energy gap we are facing later this decade," said Mr Barrett.

The plant is expected to be available for use by June 2005. Construction is due to start at the Wairakei site in early 2004.
Mr Barrett said that the decision reflected Contact’s ongoing commitment to improving the efficiency of its existing operations. “The binary plant will increase the efficiency of the Wairakei geothermal plant by nearly ten per cent and generate an additional 120 gigawatt hours per year – enough to run about 15,000 homes.”

The Wairakei binary plant will harness the heat from separated geothermal water to generate electricity. The process adds no additional water discharges, although the extra generation achieved from the plant leads to a limited increase in air discharges. The binary plant has all required resource consents for operation.

“Contact Energy is committed to both environmentally responsible and commercially sustainable operations. We are very pleased to make continued progress in this area.”

The binary plant will not affect the supply of separated geothermal water from Wairakei used by existing ventures.

Contact Energy has contracted international energy technology provider ORMAT to design and construct the binary plant at a cost of NZ$40 million. Contact Energy will fund the project from corporate funding facilities and US dollar payments are fully hedged.

ORMAT has considerable international and local expertise in geothermal technology. Wairakei binary plant will be the eighth geothermal plant built by ORMAT in New Zealand.

Contact Energy is New Zealand’s largest generator of geothermal energy.

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