Why geothermal direct use?
In New Zealand, direct geothermal use includes applications in industrial timber and food processing, agriculture, aquaculture, geothermal (ground-source) heat pumps, tourism, balneology (medicinal bathing), and commercial and domestic heating.
We currently use some 8.6 PJ/y of energy in direct geothermal heat use applications, but consider that:
- We currently contribute about 16% of New Zealand’s electricity supply from geothermal resources, from an installed geothermal electricity generation capacity of around 1000 MW.
- We have geothermal generation developments consented and ready to build, yet New Zealand’s demand for electricity has slowed. The aluminium smelter at Tiwai Point in Southland accounts for some 13% of the nation’s electricity use, but its future beyond 2017 is uncertain. Can direct use step up?
- We are on the pacific rim of fire; we have the resources, and there is significant untapped potential heat to be utilised.
Opportunities for new increased direct-use developments include:
- supplying new and existing businesses with geothermal heat;
- substitution for fossil fuel based energy;
- development of industrial / commercial geothermal heat parks; and
- attracting industries to take advantage of New Zealand’s geothermal assets.
The technological, economic and environmental benefits of direct geothermal use are well demonstrated nationally and internationally.
The Geoheat Strategy seeks to unlock our untapped potential, by capitalising on current interest in geothermal energy and by coordinating the efforts and resources of industry and government at all levels to drive increased utilisation.
Implementing this strategy will assist in meeting New Zealand’s energy needs, contribute to economic and social development, strategic energy targets, and further promote New Zealand’s commitment to efficient and clean energy use.
Geothermal energy is in a new space in New Zealand. We have extensive geothermal expertise, and we have the resource, yet our efforts to date have been focused on electricity generation. Demand for electricity is now in a period of slow growth, and we have untapped direct use opportunities. The time is right to focus our energies and expertise on direct use.
To that end, this strategy does not include geothermal electricity generation; but rather focuses on other uses for the abundant heat available.
There is also considerable and growing interest from business and industry, economic development agencies, regulatory authorities, central government, and iwi landowners, trusts and economic authorities to tap in to direct geothermal energy use. However, to date this enthusiasm has not yet materialised into growth.
We are in a unique position to shift our focus from generation to direct use, using our expertise and knowledge gained through decades of geothermal development to drive an underutilised renewable energy resource. In doing so, we can reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, create jobs, increase our international competitiveness, and capitalise on our natural resources and geothermal expertise.