11 Dec 2017

Power plant contract goes to Icelandic company

2:29 pm on 11 December 2017

The Far North power company Top Energy has let the contracts for the expansion of its Ngawha geothermal power plant.

At Ngawha, water and steam from the ground are used to heat pentane, which vaporises and drives the turbines.

Ngawha power plant. Photo: TOP ENERGY

The project worth $176 million will almost double the capacity of the 28-megawatt station near Kaikohe.

The contract for the massive earthworks involved has gone to the New Zealand-owned local company, United Civil, but Top Energy has looked overseas for geothermal expertise.

It has awarded the Ngawha drilling contract to Iceland Drilling, which drilled the Ngatamariki power station near Taupo, and will base a specialist team in Northland for a year, from next April.

The contract for geothermal plant construction has gone to the Israeli company ORMAT, which built the original Ngawha station in 1998 and carried out the first expansion in 2008.

Top Energy's chief executive, Russell Shaw, said the expanded 53-megawatt Ngawha plant would radically improve the security and reliability of Northland's power supply, and reduce its dependence on the National Grid.

"Ultimately, expansion of the Ngawha power station could secure the region's energy independence with benefits for consumers by providing a renewable and lower cost source of generation and power," he said.

Russell Shaw said United Civil had a permanent base in Whangarei and would largely draw on a Northland-based workforce.

The company and its sub-contractors currently employed six local workers and were now recruiting for foremen, experienced plant operators and labourers, he said.

The Top Energy chief said the earthworks involved in the Ngawha expansion would be massive.

"Over 700,000 cubic metres of dirt will be excavated over three summers, with completion by 2020," Mr Shaw said.

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