M.E Research to co-lead Endeavour-funded geothermal project

Wairakei Geothermal Power Station

The Wairakei Geothermal Power Station. Photo: Louise Thomas.

Dr Garry McDonald of M.E Research is co-leader of the Adapting to climate change through stronger geothermal enterprises, five-year, $6,460,260 Endeavour Project. The project will be co-led by Professor Shane Cronin of the University of Auckland.

“The Taupo volcanic zone is a bit like Yellowstone in the US in which deep seated magma is heating groundwater to create geothermal features. In Yellowstone, these are major tourist attractions, in New Zealand they are both tourist attractions and a means of generating renewable baseload energy for electricity and industrial heat – our geothermal resources are critical for our economy and sustaining our electricity grid," says Garry.

Geothermal energy provides an important transition pathway to renewable low-carbon energy for Aotearoa New Zealand – mainly because it is invariant to short-term weather fluctuations and is not dependent on sun or wind. Garry says to boost the growth and the benefits of this sector of our economy we need to improve knowledge around how we harness geothermal energy under long term climate change, tectonic, and other geological events and under differing energy demand and management regimes. At the same time, we also need to learn better how we can improve on the benefits gained from geothermal energy to wider sectors of the community including Māori communities, as well as develop co-investments that lever off geothermal energy.

Garry explains the project is in three parts: "firstly how we can understand the inherent properties and readily define and forecast risks in geothermal energy under changing environments and increasing demands; secondly, how can we best harness the benefits of geothermal investments and lever diverse opportunities from them, through better economic planning and investment tools that consider wide benefits to society beyond dollars, for example, skilled employment, better social and environmental outcomes; and thirdly how can Māori better participate and gain from geothermal investment using Mātauranga principles.”

This is the second Endeavour project co-led by M.E Research who currently co-leads the Transitioning Taranaki to a Volcanic Future programme - a five-year MBIE Endeavour Fund project to build and test the geological, engineering, and socioeconomic knowledge essential for New Zealand’s transition through an unprecedented level of on-going disruption that could result from long-term eruptions from Mt. Taranaki. Using a novel integration of volcanic scientific knowledge, experimentation, and advanced mathematical and economic simulation, the project collaborators aim to radically cut down uncertainty that hinders decisive hazard and mitigation planning.

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Date posted: 19 September 2022

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