NZGA Gold Sponsor: Contact Energy

Contact Energy have been strong supporters of NZGA throughout the years, and are a substantial presence within New Zealand’s geothermal community. As a Gold Level Member Company, their generous contributions help the Association towards achieving its Vision, and are greatly appreciated. 

As part of our Sponsor Focus series, we touched base with Contact to find out more about their latest developments:

Contact Energy

We are pretty sure you will have heard of our Tauhara Power Station project by now. We have been proudly shouting from the rooftops about our pre-eminent 152MW geothermal power station we are beginning to build on the Tauhara geothermal field. 

Tauhara will be our sixth power station in the area and will also nab the mantle of being the biggest single shaft geothermal steam turbine in the world. 

We are working with some awesome contractors who are experts in geothermal. Sumitomo are our power station EPC contractor who are partnered with Fuji Electric responsible for forging the turbines. Naylor Love are our NZ based construction partners who are in charge of construction. In time, the Sumitomo team will also engage further sub-contractors to deliver on mechanical and electrical installation works. 

Hicks Brothers have been doing our earthworks and site levelling for us over the past three months and have delivered the station platform ahead of schedule. They are now focussed on delivery of the switchyard platform for Transpower and a geothermal pond which might possibly be seen from space! 

For the plant enthusiasts out there, Tauhara is a triple flash steam turbine configuration that once built will be the largest of its type in the world. It is unique as it is the first time Fuji will utilise a four-flow machine – achieved by including two double flow rotors with a bolted coupling joint mid span. 

We are also underway with drilling activities to ensure we have the geothermal fluid and injection capacity for the power station. Having already secured over half of the high enthalpy production fluid we need to run the power station, we are now turning our attention to injection capacity with our first reinjection well recently completed. Beyond that we expect to be working on our drilling programme until mid – 2022. To deliver this we are partnering with MB Century who are the local geothermal drilling experts. Western Energy (who Contact have just purchased) will also be onboard with us to utilise their trademark well testing setup when we get to the testing phase.

The power station is expected to be online in early 2023 and we are on track with our groundworks and drilling programme.  Usually, our Sumitomo partners would be flying in from Japan to collaborate on our planning phases, but we have all had to implement a lot of Teams meetings instead, including the arduous task of 15 days of HAZOPs / CHAZOPs done over video link. Fuji have begun the forging of the turbines which will eventually be shipped in one piece to NZ to be assembled onsite.  

You might also have seen several roles advertised with Contact team for the project – we’d love to have keen geothermalist’s join our team in what we believe is the New Zealand energy sectors most promising decarbonisation development opportunity. Keep an eye out on our website for current roles

We also have additional roles to come up in the construction phase (expecting up to 500 to be frank) so keep an eye out and an ear to the ground with the contractors appointed for future opportunities. 

As part of our commitment to operating in the Taupō area we want to provide opportunities for people to upskill. We are working with local training institutions to ensure there are apprenticeships and training opportunities. There will be more information coming out on this over the next three months. 

What else are we doing in the area? 

Tauhara isn’t our only large geothermal project Contact is focused on in the Taupō area. We are also looking to settle the future of our operations on the Wairākei Geothermal Field. Our resource consents expire in 2026 and we are using this opportunity to improve the efficient use of this unique resource for renewable power generation and to significantly reduce the environmental footprint of our operations – a programme we have aptly named GeoFuture. 

Contact power stations currently operating on the field are:

  • Wairākei A and B stations (up to 135 MW, commissioned in 1958 & 1963)
  • Wairākei Binary (14MW, 2005)
  • Poihipi Road (50MW, 2000)
  • Te Mihi (166MW, 2014).

Some of the major aspects of this project are to cease discharges of cooling water to the Waikato River from the old Wairākei A&B stations, and to allow for a significant uplift in generation output by using a greater proportion of the geothermal resource in a new and larger power station unit at Te Mihi without a material increase in geothermal fluid take.  The Wairākei A&B power stations are old and it is more efficient and cleaner to utilise geothermal fluid close to the main production area at Te Mihi using modern generation technologies. We are excited to apply the 60 plus years of geothermal experience we have on this field to improve our operations and to generate more renewable, low carbon electricity for a better New Zealand. 

We will be working closely with tangata whenua, neighbours and other key stakeholders on these proposals prior to applying for new resource consents. Keep an eye out for updates and public meetings we are planning to have to come along and learn about our GeoFuture plans. 

We are planning a couple of events with NZGA in July as part of Geothermal Week and would love to see you all there. Keep an eye out for further information.