Huge Geothermal Plant Scoped In New Zealand

The planned replacement of a half-century-old geothermal power plant in New Zealand has a contractor on board. Actually, it’s a threesome of contractors – a joint venture consisting of McConnell Dowell, SNC-Lavalin and Parsons Brinckerhoff – that will do the engineering, procurement and construction on the 166 megawatt (MW) Te Mihi project.

Te Mihi is in the middle of New Zealand’s North Island, about 175 miles south of Auckland. It’s also just a few miles from Contact Energy’s Wairakei Geothermal Power Station, the second-oldest geothermal plant in the world. Contact’s plan is to build two new geothermal units at Te Mihi, then decommission 45 MW of Wairakei’s generating capacity, leaving a net gain of 114 MW. The company expects that to happen sometime in 2013.

New Zealand geothermal plant, Wairakei, Contact Energy

image via Contact Energy

In a statement put out by SNC-Lavlin, a Canadian engineering and construction firm, Contact Managing Director David Baldwin said his company believes Te Mihi is New Zealand’s “most cost-effective” source for added energy. In the New Zealand Herald he added that geothermal has a major advantage over hydroelectric and wind because it doesn’t depend on the weather.

“The additional 114 megawatts is expected to be required by the market by 2013 as economic growth resumes, and will also contribute to lowering Contact’s average cost of generation,” Baldwin said.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.


  • Reply March 8, 2011


    that is a huge amount to put in new zeland!

  • Reply March 11, 2011


    Hope we see more of this around the world.

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