An update on the geothermal sector in New Zealand by NZGA

An update on the geothermal sector in New Zealand by NZGA Wairakei geothermal power plant, New Zealand (source: ThinkGeoEnergy, creative commons)
Alexander Richter 1 Nov 2020

With 60+ years of geothermal power generation, New Zealand is one of the pioneers for geothermal energy development. Today, the country utilises geothermal energy not only for power generation but also with a variety of industrial use applications, so NZGA in a recent update.

Giving an update on the geothermal industry in New Zealand to a regional publication, the New Zealand Geothermal Association (NZGA) shared an interesting overview on the current status of geothermal energy utilization in the country and the industry.

NZGA describes that the geothermal industry in New Zealand as of today arose in the 1950s and comprises essentially the four segments of high, moderate and low temperature sectors, with the regulatory as the fourth one.

Working in New Zealand and internationally, the industry has been able to tap the assistance of the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs or by NZ Trade and Enterprise and being working very much internationally.

NZGA describes the most prominent firms in the geothermal service sector, as MB Century (drilling, well services, steamfield engineering), Western Energy Services (well services), Jacobs (geoscience and engineering), Sequent (reservoir software), Solenis (process chemistry-chemicals), Nalco (water chemicals), GNS Science (geoscience and chemical laboratory), Mitchell Daysh (environmental), MTI (engineering), Dobbie Engineering (process engineering), Thorndon Cook (engineering), AECOM (engineering), Upflow (market intelligence), Glucina & Associates (engineering), Flow State Solutions (reservoir modelling software), ProGen (turbine maintenance) and Auckland University – Geothermal Institute (engineering training).

At the same time the operators, Contact Energy, and Mercury (formerly Mighty River Power) are among the largest geothermal operators today. Other operators include Tauropaki Trust, Ngati Tuwhateroa Geothermal Ventures, Eastland Generation, and  Top Energy.

As of today, New Zealand has an installed power generation capacity of 1,005 MW, or as NZGA describes as 957 MW (net) capacity presented by 19 geothermal power plants. The oldest plant, the Wairakei geothermal plant has been operating since 1958.

Geothermal energy contributes 18% (7,660 GWh) to New Zealand’s annual electricity supply, more than wind and solar PV combined. The annual industry income from wholesale electricity sales surged to NZ$539 million (around USD 360 million) due to recent rises in wholesale prices.

The heat supply from high-temperatures systems stands around 5,600 TJ (heat) per year for industrial processes, and low temperatures systems supply around 8,000 TJ of heat, while heat pumps supply around 400 TJ. The industrial use of geothermal is strong and includes pasteurisation (of milk), drying and evaporating water for dairy and forest industries.

If additional growth will happen depends on a number of issues. Earlier this year, it was announced that one of the largest electricity offtakers, an aluminium smelter, will shut down and create a situation there will be an oversupply of electricity available.

Source: NZ Geothermal Association via Business View Oceania