Power project damned (Waikato Times)

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A billion-dollar geothermal power project being fast-tracked by the Government could threaten the stability of a nearby hydro dam, says one of Contact Energy’s competitors.

By DANIEL ADAMS

A billion-dollar geothermal power project being fast-tracked by the Government could threaten the stability of a nearby hydro dam, says one of Contact Energy’s competitors.

In March, Environment Minister Nick Smith moved to speed Contact’s consent application for a geothermal power station in the Tauhara field, near Taupo, by referring it to a board of inquiry because it was a nationally significant project.

Under changes to the Resource Management Act, the hearing must be completed within nine months, with limited appeal rights to ensure projects in the “national interest” don’t get delayed in years of litigation.

But competitor Mighty River Power claims the proposed reinjection of geothermal fluids within 200 metres of its Aratiatia Dam could cause ground uplift or seismic activity and create a leak in the dam or its intake tunnel.

Tauhara 2 is part of well over 1000 megawatts of additional renewable geothermal and wind-powered electricity generation newly commissioned or proposed in the Waikato by both Contact Energy and Mighty River Power.

Collectively, the additional renewable energy generation projects would power more than a million households.

Sixty submissions on Tauhara 2 were received, with Mighty River Power saying geothermal fluid injection was known to have caused dam failures overseas.

In its submission, it said Contact may have understated the potential for adverse effects.

It said the active West Aratiatia seismic fault line cut through the southern dam abutment and intake tunnel. “Fresh breaks on this fault induced by ground inflation due to shallow injection or by earthquake activity due to deep injection would cause the dam and or tunnel to leak,” the submission said.

A submission from Rotokawa Joint Venture a partnership of Mighty River and 800 Ngati Tahu beneficiaries to develop the adjacent Rotokawa field said reinjection could cool its neighbouring geothermal system.

It could also cause subsidence and odour complaints.

A Contact Energy spokesperson said it was talking to all submitters about alleviating their concerns and was reluctant to comment on individual submissions.

The company was the first to have a power station proposal referred to an independent board of inquiry under the Environmental Protection Authority established by Prime Minister John Key’s Government.

Tauhara 2 would have a baseload or constant capacity of 240MW, enough to supply power to about 240,000 homes. The $100 million, 23MW Tauhara 1 power station was completed ahead of schedule last month.

Some submitters have criticised the limited timeframe the new rules allowed them to consider the proposal. Several Taupo iwi have challenged the project on cultural and environmental grounds.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/waikato-times/news/3785836/Power-project-damned

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