New Zealanders have long dreamed of using their vast sunshine for energy.
But they may have a new way to get it: geothermal energy.
In November last year, the New Zealand Government announced a $6.8 million loan guarantee for the venture to explore geothermal resources in northern New Zealand.
The loan was to be used for research and development and to establish a geothermal power station in the country’s capital city of Auckland.
But this week the Government announced that its plans to build a geyser facility on the Gisborne coast have been delayed indefinitely.
A spokesperson for the Department of Conservation told Newshub the project would not go ahead until the country was prepared to secure a loan from the Chinese government, but the announcement has led some to question whether the loan guarantee is just a smokescreen for a broader investment in geothermal projects.
“New Zealanders are passionate about solar energy, but there is a lot of scepticism about it.
A lot of people have said, ‘Oh, I’m going to take a trip to China, and there are so many opportunities’,” said Simon O’Malley, a geology lecturer at Otago University.”
We have to make sure that we get the funding to do this, and we have to do it in a sustainable way.”
Geothermal energy has been used for years in China and it is estimated that one million tonnes of the mineral rock are produced each year, with China being the world’s biggest producer.
O’Malley said the Government had been slow to put resources into geothermal development because the costs were prohibitive.
“There are a lot more expensive things to invest in than building a geode, and I think they need to be thinking about that in their investment strategy,” he said.
Geothermal electricity can produce more electricity than conventional electricity, and can be produced from an abundance of natural gas, but it is only now that geothermal is being considered as a viable energy source in New Zealand that it is being widely deployed.
In April last year the Government issued a plan for the development of a geoviewer, a device that would allow geologists to measure and record the geothermal heat generated by the land.
It is estimated to generate up to 10 times more electricity that a conventional geothermal plant.
“Geothermal power is just another way to bring our electricity back from the grid to the grid,” said O’Neill.
“It’s something that we can actually get at.
There are huge benefits in the energy mix.”