Geothermal power in New
New geothermal drilling north of Taupo
is a small but significant part of the energy generation capacity of
, providing approximately 10% of the country's
electricity with installed capacity approaching 600 MW
Zealand, like only a small number of other countries
worldwide, has numerous geothermal sites that could be developed
for exploitation, and also boasts some of the earliest large-scale
use of geothermal energy in the world.
Geothermal energy has been described as New Zealand's most reliable
renewable energy source, above wind, solar and even water power,
due to its lack of dependence on the weather.
The exploration of New Zealand's geothermal fields has been very
extensive, and by the 1980s, most fields were considered mapped,
with 129 found, of which 14 are in the 70-140 °C range, 7 in the
140-220 °C range and 15 in the >220 °C range. Currently, some
potential new geothermal fields are being surveyed that have no
Zealand's high-temperature geothermal fields are mostly
concentrated around the Taupo
Volcanic Zone (which also has most of the currently operating
generation capacity), in the central North Island, with another
major field at Ngawha
Springs in Northland. However, more systems (some of them
potentially exploitable) are scattered all over the country, from
Plains to the Bay of Plenty to numerous hot springs in the South Island, most of them associated with faults and other tectonic
Many applications of geothermal energy in New Zealand reinject the
cooled steam / fluid back into the underground fields, to extend or
infinitely use the fields as power sources.
energy use in New Zealand is strongly tied to Wairakei, where the
first geothermal plant was opened in 1958. At that time, it was
only the second large-scale plant existing worldwide (the first
being the Valle del Diavolo 'Devil's Valley' plant in Larderello, Italy opened in
Several new plants and efficiency-enhancing
second-stage equipment have been added since, though there is also
some loss of steam generation due to the decade-long drawdown. Some
plants are therefore capped in steam extraction volumes to allow
the fields to regenerate, and a percentage of the steam/water is
was the first to come into operation via a resource consent applied
for and issued under the Resource Management Act. Recent geothermal
developments include an upgrade of this plant as well as the
commissioning of the Kawerau Power Station in 2008.
Geothermal energy is expected to contribute an increasing
proportion of the nation's electricity in the future, with several
large geothermal projects underway. The 132 MW Nga Awa Purua station is currently under construction and
Contact Energy is developing the 23
Drive Plant, a binary
Both are located near Taupo
and due to enter commercial operation in 2010. Other developments
include the 220 MW Te Mihi Power
which is expected to begin operation in 2011.
Considerable geothermal research expertise exists at New Zealand's
universities. In particular, the Geothermal Institute of the
University of Auckland (until 2003) and now the Geothermal Program
in the Institute of Earth Science and Engineering. The University of
Auckland has in excess of 20 faculty members dedicated to
geothermal research and teaching.
Their efforts are
coordinated by Professor Paul W. O. Hoskin.
Laws and regulations
- Geothermal Energy Act 1953
The Geothermal Energy Act 1953 was made redundant by the Resource Management Act 1991
(RMA). The Geothermal Energy Act granted water rights, which have
generally been replaced by RMA resource consents.
- Geothermal Energy Regulations 1961
The Geothermal Energy Regulations 1961 define the role of
"geothermal inspectors" and specifies processes for applications
for authorities and licences.
Geothermal Energy Empowering Act 1967 is an Act to enable the
Rotorua City Council to make
provisions for the control of the tapping and use of geothermal
energy in the city of Rotorua.
- Rotorua City Geothermal Energy Empowering Act 1967
- Resource Management Act 1991
The Resource Management Act
(RMA) is a significant, and at times, controversial Act of
Parliament passed in 1991. The RMA regulates access to natural and
physical resources such as land, air and water, with sustainable use
of these resources being the
overriding goal. New Zealand's Ministry for the
describes the RMA as New Zealand's principal
legislation for environmental management.
The Resource Management Act is the principal legislation
controlling the use of geothermal resources in New Zealand. The New
Zealand Geothermal Association considers the procedures which are
currently being adopted under the RMA as the single largest
obstacle to further geothermal development, holding that "the
regulatory process leads to long delays which impose a significant
up-front cost on projects, reducing their financial
List of geothermal power stations