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Exploring geothermal as an energy option for the West Coast

A West Coast consortium has tapped into our expertise in geothermal energy to see if geothermal can be part of a wider energy strategy for the region.

Aerial photo of West Coast. Photo: Dougal Townsend

Could geothermal provide solutions for the West Coast's energy mix? Photo: Dougal Townsend


“This is a renewable resource that has almost zero carbon emissions, and currently it’s totally untapped. Looking at the recommendations in the GNS Science study and working with Development West
Coast, we estimate that developing these prospects would result in up to 160 new direct jobs on the West Coast, plus other downstream jobs.”

Francois Tumahai, Chairman Ngāti Waewae


Our work consisted of a 10-month preliminary study to assess the size and extent of potential geothermal resources in the region. Lead funder for the study was Development West Coast. Consortium members include local councils, commercial interests, community groups, and iwi groups Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Waewae and Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio. 

The peer-reviewed study considered geothermal heat sources that could potentially be used for direct applications such as horticulture, hot pools, accommodation facilities and industrial uses. It also looked at the possibility of small-scale electricity generation. 

Our mix of expertise in geothermal geology, modelling, and geochemistry, plus a long association with West Coast geology, enabled us to provide unique insights into the geothermal potential of the region. 

This study identified four sites considered worthy of more detailed investigation. They are Franz Josef, Brunner/Moana, Styx River/Kokatahi and Haupiri/Kopara. Locations on the Westland Plains have geothermal fluid temperatures between 60oC and 90oC. Those closer to the ‘Alpine Fault Domain’ were hotter at the same depth below the surface — 100 degrees C to 130 degrees C — or higher if drilled deeper. 

This suggests the Plains sites are best suited for horticulture and tourism activities rather than electricity generation or industrial use, both of which need higher temperatures. Other factors considered were the available workforce, transport networks, land access, and the depth to useable heat at each of the sites. This study has given a solid foundation to the Consortium as it considers future directions for the initiative.