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Published: 2007-12-03 00:00:00

An Environment Waikato hearing committee has approved resource consents for a new Taupo geothermal power station that will help meet New Zealand’s growing energy demands in an environmentally friendly way.

The new power station will be capable of producing 130 megawatts of energy from a renewable source and is consistent with a Government push towards climate-friendly energy generation.

Rotokawa Joint Venture Ltd, formed by Tauhara North No 2 Trust and Mighty River Power Limited, applied to Environment Waikato to renew resource consents for Taupo’s existing Rotokawa Geothermal Power Station earlier this year. The station produces about 33 megawatts of electricity.

The company also sought consents to build a new geothermal power station, to be named Nga Awa Purua, at the same site. This would boost total energy production at the site to more than 160 megawatts.

The application was heard in Taupo on November 12 and 13 by two independent hearing commissioners appointed by Environment Waikato.

There were three submitters against the proposal, with two speaking at the hearing.

The Ministry for Economic Development was one submitter in favour of the plan.
According to the Ministry, the project would provide about 13% of the Government's target for new generation capacity by 2012 from renewable energy sources. It would also produce about 850,000 fewer tonnes annually of CO2 than a coal fired station producing the same amount of electricity.

The Ministry estimated New Zealand would need to produce 100-150 megawatts of new generation every year to meet the current national growth in energy demands.
Issues discussed at the hearing included:

  • air quality effects (particularly hydrogen sulphide discharges)
  • land subsidence
  • impacts on a neighbour’s water supply
  • effects on the Parariki Stream
  • effects on geothermal surface features
  • effects on the geothermal reservoir itself.

After carefully considering all the evidence, the commissioners concluded any adverse environmental effects would be minor and could be managed through resource consent conditions.

These conditions included the establishment of a technical peer review panel, comprehensive monitoring and reporting of offsite effects and effects on the resource itself, requirements for a geothermal system management plan and best practice requirements relating to the construction and operation of the new power station and steam field.

Regular opportunities to review the consent conditions were also built into the consents.

In their hearing report, the commissioners said the use and development of the Rotokawa geothermal resource does, and would, provide a number of positives, including:

  • the provision of base-load generation that is largely unaffected by weather patterns
  • the generation of electricity in a way that would produce a fraction of the CO2 generated by gas or coal fuelled thermal generating plants to produce an equivalent amount of electricity
  • the development of a resource in a way that enables the tangata whenua owners of the land to make provision for their own well-being.

“Granting the consents will allow the sustainable use of a natural resource,” they said.

“We are satisfied that the proposal as presented to us, subject to the conditions we have attached to the consents…amounts to sustainable management of the natural and physical resources represented by the Rotokawa Geothermal System.”