Kawerau Geothermal plant by Mighty River Power
New Zealand just announced the completion of the world’s largest binary geothermal power plant! Designed by Mighty River Power, the 100 MW Ngatamariki Geothermal Power Station is the country’s third geothermal project since 2008. The plant is located near Taupo on the country’s North Island, and it’s considered a strategic milestone by the company and an important achievement for geothermal energy.
Image by Szymon Stoma
Due to the complex and capital-intensive nature of geothermal projects, the company has spent more than a decade building partnerships and over $75 million in exploration before making the decision to go ahead with the plant. Mighty River Power chair Joan Withers talked about the capital requirements, high levels of commitment, capability and partnership required for a project of this scale:
“Our commitment of nearly half a billion dollars of capital to this project was only confirmed after satisfying ourselves on each of these fronts – and the long-term sustainability of the resource and returns to our investors.”
Ormat, the company responsible for the plant’s construction, say that it is the largest facility of its kind anywhere in the world. It works by feeding energy converters with high-temperature (193 ºC) geothermal fluid. In this configuration, 100% of the geothermal fluid is re-injected with zero water consumption and low emissions, minimizing the impact on the environment without depleting underground reservoirs. Unlike other forms of sustainable power, geothermal doesn’t rely on weather conditions, meaning it can run around the clock without interruption.
Mighty River Power’s five geothermal plants generate about 10% of New Zealand’s total electricity annually, and the company also runs nine power stations in the Waikato Hydro System. The company’s geothermal initiative displaces coal-fired generation, saving the country more than 3 million tones of carbon emissions every year.