Te Ahi O Maui will deliver up to 25 megawatts of electricity

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New Zealand’s largest geothermal plant is now up and running, and better than advertised. After nearly three years of construction with zero lost-time injuries, Te Ahi O Maui geothermal plant came online in October 2018 and will deliver at least 24 megawatts of electricity (MWe), and likely 25. Eastland Generation’s original estimates called for 22 MWe. The plant will produce enough energy to power 25,000 homes.

The plant on the Kawerau geothermal reservoir in the eastern Bay of Plenty is a partnership between Eastland and Kawerau A8D Ahu Whenua Trust, a Maori group which owns the land.

“Both partners have brought strong commitments to the cultural wellbeing and safety of the whenua (people of the land) and the people working on the project,” Eastland Generation general manager Ben Gibson said. “Our kaupapa (principle) of development has ensured the project was executed in an environmentally friendly, sustainable and culturally appropriate way.”

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The plant can extract a daily limit of 15,000 metric tons of geothermal fluid for 35 years. Eastland Generation says nearly all of that fluid will go back into the reservoir, making for a sustainable operation.

“We look forward to seeing Te Ahi O Maui provide baseload renewable energy to New Zealand’s emerging alternative energy markets, and playing a greater role in meeting the country’s current and future energy needs,” Eastland Group chief executive Matt Todd said. “We’re exploring ways that we can use the output commercially, to support businesses and the communities we operate in.”

Tomai Fox, an elder of the trust who served as cultural adviser for the construction, said his community is pleased with the results.

“Seeing this project completed has long been a vision for me and my whanau (extended family),” he said. “We have a strong connection with the whenua, and we are proud that it has been completed without any injury to people or the environment.”

MB Century designed and constructed the steamfield, while Horizon Constructing built the transmission line. Te Ahi O Maui is the first geothermal power station built in New Zealand under new health and safety legislation, making Eastland Generation the first geothermal power plant operator in New Zealand to have a Safety Case accepted by WorkSafe under the major hazard facilities regulations.