New Zealand's first underground gas storage facility and a new 200 megawatt, gas-fired peaker plant were both officially opened on Tuesday by Prime Minister John Key at Contact Energy's Stratford power station.
Together, the two projects cost more than $400 million, Contact chief executive Dennis Barnes told a gathering that included the mayors of Stratford and New Plymouth, councillors, local MPs, representatives from Ngati Ruanui and industry executives.
The Ahuroa gas storage facility is the first natural gas storage facility constructed in New Zealand and building it was a significant geological, engineering and construction challenge for the company.
``We were fortunate to be able to draw on the expertise of our majority shareholder, Origin Energy to develop Ahuroa from a concept to a working asset,'' says Mr Barnes.
The Ahuroa gas storage facility consists of a near depleted gas reservoir, to which additional wells and compressors have been added.
The facility enables Contact to inject gas into the reservoir during periods in which it is not needed, such as in summer when demand for electricity is low, or when renewable
energy is abundant.
The new facility bridges the gap between the way gas fields would like to produce _ with steady demand _ and the way in which the energy market likes to use gas, only when it is needed. This ability to inject and extract gas enables Contact to operate its gas-fired power stations as they are required to fill gaps in the power produced by support weather-driven renewable generation.
``One of its potential users is the peaker plant which will also play an important role in meeting the country's energy needs.
``The peaker plant will add to New Zealand's security of supply by balancing weather-dependent renewables such as wind and hydro, and adding to supply during periods of peak demand,'' he says.
The plant is capable of going from a cold start to full-power and producing enough electricity to power 200,000 homes in 10 minutes, so it is able to quickly meet spikes in demand.
Phil Pryke, Contact's deputy chairman, who attended the opening on behalf of the Contact board, acknowledged the support Contact had received from iwi, government and the Stratford community, in the assets' development and construction.