More Geothermal In Sight In New Zealand

Geothermal power, already growing in New Zealand, could be on the way to claiming a bigger share of the country’s clean-energy future after Mighty River Power completed deals with two Maori land trusts to explore and develop a new field on the North Island.

The deals, between the power company and the Okere and Ruahine Kuharua trusts, center on the Taheke field, about 12 miles northeast of Rotorua. The site of the proposed development, to be known as  Te ia a Tutea, lies within the Taupo Volcanic Zone, where most of New Zealand’s 750 megawatts of geothermal capacity (at last count) can be found, according to the New Zealand Geothermal Association. Geothermal production has been steadily rising in New Zealand and now contributes about 14 percent of the nation’s electricity supply, according to the latest government quarterly report [PDF].

geothermal, Mighty River Power

image via Mighty River Power

Mighty River Power, which also owns large hydroelectric resources, has been an aggressive pursuer of geothermal power and now calls itself one of the 10 largest geothermal companies in the world. The company said the Taheke resource “was thought to be of medium temperature spanning an area potentially comparable to the Rotokawa field, where the Company has completed its most recent development, Nga Awa Purua.” Nga Awa Purua has 140 MW of installed capacity.

The agreements with the Maori land tursts “enable initial exploration and feasibility study of the geothermal resource and provide for long-term co-ownership of any subsequent developments,” Mighty River said, and exploratory drilling is expected to get going within the next 12 months.

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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.