Today a new geo-thermal power station was opened in Kawerau, in the eastern Bay of Plenty. Geo means earth and therm means heat. The power station uses hot steam from the earth. Like the geo-thermal power station at Wairakei, which opened in the 1950s, it takes steam at 220°C from the ground to generate electrical power. Kawerau and Wairakei are both in the Taupo volcanic zone.
This new power station takes steam from 2km underground and then sends it 8km by pipe to drive the turbine. Then the steam is returned to the ground. This makes it a renewable source of power. It also has low greenhouse gas emissions and takes up very little space. We are lucky to have this source of energy. Only the Philippines, Indonesia and New Zealand have such hot steam available underground.
This is the first big geo-thermal power station in New Zealand in 20 years but already Mighty River Power is building another bigger one near Taupo which will be opened in about two years. Mighty River Power, which built this power station, is a State-Owned Enterprise, which means it is owned by the government but has to make a profit. This power station was built by 400 workers, at a cost of $300 million which was less than the budget. Now that it is working, there is a staff of 15 workers.
The Kawerau power station will generate 100 megawatts, enough electricity for a city the size of Hamilton. In fact, 80% of it will be used for the timber and paper industry in Kawerau.