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Geothermal Energy Progress

Media Release 7 March 2008

Geothermal Energy Progress

Geothermal energy is renewable energy generated from heat naturally stored beneath the surface of the earth. Generation and heat supply technologies are well-established in New Zealand and are a sound, low maintenance alternative to fossil fuel energy sources.

This form of energy generates a minimal environmental impact and compared to other renewable sources such as wind, it has a much higher availability factor (>90%) as it is not dependent on climate.

‘Because of the continuing positive progress by New Zealand geothermal developers, what can only be described as a geothermal renaissance is occurring as geothermal energy can provide reliable baseload renewable electricity at competitive prices,’ says Dr Colin Harvey of the New Zealand Geothermal Association.

Several operations are taking great strides in the renewable energy stakes. Top Energy is progressing its 15 MW expansion of the Ngawha power station. This is a strategic investment and gives Northland a strong base of local generation.

Mighty River Power is making good progress on the 90 MW Kawerau power station. This station will sit beside the second largest industrial load in New Zealand associated with the Kawerau pulp and paper mills.

The Kawerau mills continue to be supplied geothermal steam for industrial needs. This supply is now in the ownership of Ngati Tuwharetoa Geothermal Assets (NGTA). NGTA has a progressive attitude so announcements of future development are awaited with interest.

Developments to come will be Contact Energy’s Centennial Drive Tauhara 20 MW development and the 130 MW Rotokawa expansion by a joint venture between Mighty River Power and Tauhara North No 2 Trust. Both of these have resource consents in place.

One of the largest geothermal developments will be Contact Energy’s 220 MW Te Mihi development. This will eventually replace the 50 year old Wairakei Power Station and will divert steam from that station. The Te Mihi power station will possibly be the largest geothermal development in the pipeline and will generate another 60 MW more than the current stations through more efficient use of the resource.

‘The NZGA is pleased that the government has been responsive to Contact Energy’s requests to have this project called-in for consenting purposes. A Board of Inquiry will soon hear evidence associated with this project and make decisions using the planning framework established by Environment Waikato and Taupo District Council. Contact believes that this process will be timelier than the normal consenting process which can be delayed by appeals,’ says Dr Colin Harvey.

At around 220 MW of baseload generation, the Te Mihi project will be the largest geothermal project in New Zealand’s history. Before this, Wairakei itself was our largest project, although developed in stages, with initial commissioning 50 years ago. The next largest geothermal station could be Contact’s proposed development at Tauhara (though this may be staged), followed by the recently consented Rotokawa expansion at around 130 MW. This could be rivalled by further possible expansion at Mokai by Tuaropaki Power Company, or by a new development on the Nga Tamariki field.

The scope of these projects is enormous.

Other parties (especially Maori Trusts) are actively looking for opportunities often in partnership with Mighty River Power or others. Based on published information, there are more fields that have favourable conditions.
NZGA notes that geothermal energy development will be critical to achieving the New Zealand Government’s goals in terms of electricity generation, given the heavy reliance placed on renewable energy within its Energy Strategy.

ends

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