Almost $176 million worth of contracts have been let to expand the Ngawha Geothermal Power Station, with a Northland firm winning one of the three main contracts.
It's believed to be one of the largest construction projects ever to be undertaken in the Far North and Whangarei-based United Civil Construction has won the contract to carry out major earthworks and other civil work for the expansion, which will take Ngawha's capacity form 25 megawatts to 53megawatts - enough to power the entire Far North.
With a total project value of $176 million, Top Energy CEO Russell Shaw said the addition of the new 28 megawatt power station to existing operations will be a game changer for Northland.
Once completed in 2021, the capacity at the power station will be increased to 53 megawatts, which, Mr Shaw said, will radically improve the security and reliability of the power supply for the whole Northland region.
"Our reliance on the National Grid which transports power from the south will be substantially reduced," he said.
"Ultimately, expansion of the Ngawha power station could secure the region's energy independence, with clear benefits for local consumers by providing a renewable and lower cost source of generation and power."
Mr Shaw said the civil works involved in the expansion is massive.
"Over 700,000 cubic metres of dirt will be excavated over three summer periods from October to April, with completion of civil works in 2020."
He said United Civil Construction has been undertaking enabling works at the site since October.
Mr Shaw said the company has extensive earthworks experience and has worked on some of Northland's largest industrial infrastructure builds and upgrades such as the Whangarei Sewerage Scheme Stage 3, civil works at Northport's Deep Water Port and roading projects such as the Kamo Bypass Stage 2 and more recently the SH1 Brynderwyn Safe System Project.
United Civil is responsible for constructing the platform for the new power station, forming the drilling pads for the geothermal production well and reinjection of geothermal fluid back into the geothermal field, as well as other associated civil works.
With a permanent base in Whangarei, Mr Shaw said United Civil will largely draw upon a Northland-based workforce, creating employment opportunities and contributing to the local economy.
United Civil and its subcontractors currently employ six local workers and are actively recruiting for foremen, experienced plant operators and keen labourers.
United Civil managing director Andrew Campbell said the company would employ about 30 extra people directly for the work and would only employ people from the mid-North area. As well it would use local sub-contractors who would also take on extra workers from the local community.
Mr Campbell said there would have been plenty of competition for the contract and he was delighted that a Northland firm got it and it would provide extra work for Northlanders.
''We see ourselves firmly as a Northland company and this is a significant contract for us. It's not the biggest one we've ever done, but it's up there. It's a lot of dirt to move and we will probably have removed about 100,000 cubic metres before Christmas.
''It's nice to employ people from an area where they need more employment and it's putting money back into the area where the contract comes from, rather than taking it out.''
He would not say what the contract was worth, but said it was a 'significant amount'
believed to be many millions of dollars.
Mr Shaw said for the other two contracts, Top Energy looked off shore to deliver the best value for the project.
Iceland Drilling, with decades of experience in the field of geothermal drilling, including the Ngatamariki geothermal power station near Taupo, will send a specialist team and be based in Northland for one year from April 2018.
Israeli geothermal plant construction expert Ormat has the contract to design, build and supply the power station which will commissioned in 2021.
Ormat has a long history with the operations at Ngawha supplying the original 10 megawatt power station, which was commissioned in June 1998 and then expanded to 25 megawatts in 2008.