Geothermal plant in Contact's Taupo plan

By Grant Bradley

Contact Energy has confirmed it wants to develop a 20MW geothermal generation plant in Taupo in part of plans to spend $1 billion over the next five years on new power stations in the area.

Chief executive David Baldwin said the $75 million plant, which is already covered by resource consents, will take geothermal steam from the Tauhara steamfield and produce enough electricity for nearly 20,000 homes.

The project is the first stage of the proposed development of the Tauhara geothermal system.

Although the 20MW plant is relatively small, the baseload nature of geothermal electricity will see this project make a valuable contribution to renewable electricity generation from the Taupo region. The geothermal steam will be piped along 1km to the binary plant, through about 1km of pipe with all used geothermal fluid reinjected back into the edge of the steamfield.

Contact's three power stations in the Taupo region produce about 5 per cent of the country's total energy.

State-owned Mighty River Power is building a 90MW geothermal plant at Kawerau worth about $300 million which is due to open late next year.

Contact yesterday also announced the resolution of final resource consent conditions for the construction of a 17MW hydro generation scheme at the Lake Hawea control gates. The two points Contact appealed against from the original consents were in relation to the drafting of two conditions; one clarifying timing on one aspect of the construction process and the other relating to the volumes of water able to be delivered to the Hawea Irrigation Company. The project is expected to be finished by 2012.

* Transpower said yesterday it would increase the south to north transfer capacity of switch gear known as Pole 2 from 500MW to 700MW next month by reconfiguring the three operational undersea cables of the interisland high-voltage link.

To increase the capacity of Pole 2, one of the two undersea cables connected to the stood-down Pole 1 will be transferred to the operational Pole 2 in mid-December.

Transpower's national grid manager, David Laurie, said that this step was being taken to maximise the capacity of the HVDC link while an evaluation was under way to assess whether to reinstate Pole 1 or decommission it.

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