15 Sep 2015

Geothermal expansion gets go-ahead

8:33 pm on 15 September 2015

The Northland power company Top Energy has the green light for a multi-million dollar expansion of its geothermal power station at Ngawha near Kaikohe.

A panel of three independent commissioners has granted consents for a staged development that will triple the amount of electricity produced by the Ngawha geothermal field.

The proposal attracted just 13 submissions, 11 of which opposed to the expansion.

Tangata whenua have been worried about the effect of taking more geothermal fluid from the ground, and the potential impacts on the Ngawha hot springs.

But the commissioners have decided the impact will be no more than minor, and they have imposed a raft of conditions on the project.

Top Energy will fund a kaitiaki advisor and a monitoring plan, to assess the health of surrounding flora and fauna, and local waterways.

The Ngawha field is the country's only high temperature geothermal resource outside of the Taupo volcanic zone and the commissioners said the creation of two new 25 megawatt power stations would have positive effects at a local and national level.

The increased capacity is expected to give the Far North a more reliable power supply and lead to more competitive wholesale pricing.

The commissioners said the Ngawha expansion could also help delay investment in more costly alternative electricity generation nationally, reduce investment in generation from fossil fuel sources, and help the government meet its renewable electricity generation targets.

Top Energy hopes to begin building the first power station in 2017.

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