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New Geothermal Development in NZ Looks More Likely

NZGA Press Release – 16 November 2006

New Geothermal Development in NZ Looks More Likely

Three important events related to geothermal energy are being held at Auckland University this week. They are:

The Annual Geothermal Workshop, hosted jointly by the Geothermal Institute of Auckland University and the NZ Geothermal Association. This is an international scientific and technical conference which has been held annually in Auckland for almost three decades. It recognises the huge contribution New Zealand scientists and engineers have made to geothermal development world wide. The event has attracted wider international interest this year, because of the announcement that the Geothermal Institute will re-start post graduate training courses in 2007 following several year’s hiatus due to a lack of Government funding. That will restore the Geothermal Institute to its previous position as one of only two post-graduate geothermal training facilities in the world (the other is in Iceland)

The Inaugural AGM of the Western Pacific Regional Branch of the International Geothermal Association. The International Geothermal Association to which the NZ Geothermal Association is affiliated, is a world-wide organisation promoting research, education and information on the appropriate use of geothermal energy. To provide a closer regional focus and cooperation, a Regional Branch has been established by the founding countries of Japan, New Zealand, China, Indonesia and the Philippines. It is intended to foster closer linkages through the region, building on a long history of scientific and technical cooperation, and host educational events and seminars. The Past President of the NZ Geothermal Association, Jim Lawless of Sinclair Knight Merz, has been appointed as the first Chairman of the Regional Branch.

The AGM and Annual Seminar of the New Zealand Geothermal Association. The following comments on the state of the geothermal industry in New Zealand were made by the Executive Officer of the NZGA, Brian White of East Harbour Management Services”

“Last year I stated that the New Zealand geothermal industry has entered a new phase of development. Since then Tuaropaki Power Company’s Mokai Power Station 38 MWe extensions have been officially opened. Contact Energy has commissioned a new steam supply for kiln drying at the Tennon site on the Tauhara field. Now Ngawha and Kawerau resource consent appeals have been settled, Mighty River Power is gearing up right now for the construction of the new 90 MWe Kawerau Power Station and Top Energy for the 15-25 MWe expansion at Ngawha..

Geothermal resources have the ability to supply reliable, sustainable and “renewable” energy with low emissions. While much of this will be baseload generation or heat supply, some developers are now considering the possibility of some measure of load-following to provide firming for hydro or wind.

As the Waikato Regional Policy Statement and Plan is close to resolution in the Environment Court, there is now more clarity around the Environment Waikato consenting regime, an area containing around 80% of our high temperature geothermal resources, allowing development planning on this basis.

Recent studies demonstrate that the price of geothermal power and geothermal heating is still competitive with other forms of power and heat so more investigation, consenting and development is expected.

In the past we have been very conservative in our estimates of resource capability. Geothermal energy has always been seen as part of the mix of future energy supply rather than some panacea. However, I now agree that we have been too conservative and that the contribution that geothermal energy can make to future New Zealand energy requirements could be triple our past estimates. Over the coming decades around 1,200 MW of additional geothermal generation could be sustainably developed – in stages, with the co-operation of land owners, after accounting for the protection of key resources and after allowing for more conservative development near built up areas.

The large developers will be undertaking full investigations of New Zealand’s high temperature fields, but there are still many unknowns around our lower temperature resources and the utilisation of these. Geothermal energy can not only contribute to the supply-side of the energy equation, but also to the demand-side. Direct use of geothermal heating can offset electricity demand or consumption of other fuels. While there are clear applications in a number of North Island locations, potential geothermal energy applications are much wider when heat pumps are considered. The first of a new wave (perhaps only a ripple at this stage) of heat pump applications are being installed.

The coming years will see ongoing development at both the small and large scale geothermal developments. The NZGA can, and is playing a role in facilitating geothermal research, development and application.

The ongoing operations of the Association have been helped through the subscriptions of members and through the generous support of the following companies: Contact Energy, Tuaropaki Power Company, Geodynamics, Century Resources, PB Power, Sinclair Knight Merz, Mighty River Power, Geological and Nuclear Sciences, Industrial Research Limited and Bay of Plenty Electricity.

Through the year we have also received valuable support for special projects through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority and more recently through Te Puni Kokiri, recognising the unique role of Maori in geothermal guardianship and development.”

We also look forward to the forthcoming National Policy Statement on generation which we provide further encouragement for renewable energies.


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