New Zealand Farmer Developing Second Geothermal Site

A New Zealand farmer who battled for years to set up the first large private geothermal power station in that country, only to see it sold against his wishes, plans to build a second facility.

TAUPO, New Zealand (NZ), 2002-01-29 [SolarAccess.com] Consultations with neighbours as part of an application to build a Aus$100 million geothermal station on his farm west of Taupo, have drawn only four objections but 40 letters of support, says orchid exporter Alistair McLachlan. The next step will be public hearings on the proposed 45 MW geothermal facility by April. If the geothermal station goes ahead on his family farm, it will be only 1.5 km from the Poihipi station which McLachlan developed in the 1990s as part of a joint venture with New Zealand utility, Mercury Energy. That venture went sour and, against McLachlan’s wishes, the facility was sold to Contact Energy, another New Zealand utility, in 1997. The city of Taupo is served by six power stations but McLachlan says there is no guarantee of power supply for local residents. If the geothermal facility is constructed, it would provide power via a $1 million turbine that would start generating “within seconds” if there is a power outage in the national grid. Construction would take two years and provide 250 jobs. McLachlan won’t explain how the project will be funded, but that it will be 100 percent privately-owned. The facility will draw 10,500 tonnes of geothermal steam from the Wairakei volcanic field, with full re-injection of all fluids into the aquifer 1.5 km below surface. In the past, there have been land subsidence problems in Taupo because geothermal fluids were not re-injected into the field, but he insists his project will do that.
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