Kawerau, New Zealand [RenewableEnergyAccess.com] Construction on a 90-megawatt (MW), $275 million geothermal power plant in New Zealand is finally underway this week after four years of cumulative planning. The new power station, located in Kawerau in the eastern Bay of Plenty, will be the largest geothermal power development in New Zealand in over 20 years — and is expected to produce more energy annually than all of the country’s existing wind turbines, said Mighty River Power Chief Executive Doug Heffernan.The plant is part of the New Zealand-owned power generator and retailer’s geothermal exploration and development program. Kawerau, said Heffernan, is the first stage in Mighty River Power’s plans to develop 400 MW of geothermal energy over the next five to ten years. “In addition we have identified a further 800MW of potential resource which could also be developed in the longer term, subject to gaining land access agreements, resource consents and sufficient transmission infrastructure,” said Heffernan. According to Heffernan, Mighty River Power’s primary focus is on geothermal generation because it has a number of distinct advantages over other renewable energy sources in New Zealand. “Unlike other renewable energy sources, such as wind and hydro, geothermal is not subject to the climate variations such as wind speed or the amount of rain fall. Because of this it can contribute to the country’s energy requirements with more certainty,” he said, adding that geothermal generation could ultimately develop a potential 1,200 megawatts (MW)of the renewable resource. Once complete in 2008, the Kawerau geothermal station will increase local generation capacity in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, meeting approximately one-third of residential and industrial demand in the region.