NEWS RELEASE, 10 JUNE 2008
Push For Wider Use Of Low Temperature Geothermal Energy
New Zealanders will have more opportunity to use heat energy drawn directly from the ground in the future as a result of
research being led by GNS Science.
Government-owned research and consultancy organisation, GNS Science, has been awarded funding of $2.6 million over the
next three years to lead a research programme aimed at increasing the use of low temperature geothermal energy in New
Low temperature refers to geothermal heat sources that are generally less than 150OC, with some below 80OC. The funding
has been allocated by the Foundation for Research Science and Technology.
The programme is aligned with an objective in the Government’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy of increasing
the direct use of low heat resources by at least 20 percent by 2025.
A number of end-user organisations are contributing financially to the research including Contact Energy, the Ministry
for Economic Development, and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority.
Project leader Brian Carey, of GNS Science, said New Zealand’s landmass is a large source of heat, with different types
of natural energy available for harnessing with the right technology in various locations.
“ Low temperature geothermal resources are widespread throughout New Zealand and there is significant potential to
increase their use. They are capable of providing long-term energy and heat supply with low carbon emissions,” Mr Carey
Natural heat energy sources include springs and borehole fluid discharges, shallow aquifers, water and steam discharges
from thermal power plants, warm water associated with oil and gas wells, and flooded underground mines. Also,
ground-source heat pumps can be used to harness the heat contained in dry rock.
Mr Carey said the benefits of harvesting energy this way included low environmental impacts and increased security of
Foundation Business Manager Anna de Raadt said the use of low temperature geothermal resources is an economic
opportunity that warrants further exploration in New Zealand.
“The Foundation for Research, Science and Technology considers this research programme to be an important move forward
in the development of this indigenous, renewable and widely-distributed resource,” Dr de Raadt said.
Assisting GNS Science with research are specialists from The University of Auckland and Coal Research Ltd.
The research will start with a nationwide inventory of low-heat energy sources and a study of the heat energy transfer
characteristics of the ground at a number of places in New Zealand.
There will also be an analysis of socioeconomic factors and energy and tax policies that might influence the uptake of
this energy type.
Another arm of the research programme will address technical and scientific areas that will need development to enable
the growth of this type of energy. This is likely to include geophysical techniques for locating and better
characterising low temperature sources, and development of specific technology.
Finally, the programme will recommend ways to increase the use of low temperature geothermal resources across New
Mr Carey said the main uses of low heat resources internationally were space heating for homes and offices, bathing,
domestic heat pumps, greenhouse heating, and aquaculture. Other uses include food processing and numerous industrial
applications, all of which could achieve substantial cost savings over traditional heating methods.
The new research programme complements the ongoing work GNS Science does in helping land owners and energy companies
develop high temperature geothermal energy resources in the central North Island.
In addition, the Government has recently allocated $4 million to investigate the potential of geothermal resources that
are deeper and hotter than those currently tapped. Geothermal wells that are up to 5km deep have the potential to
produce significantly more energy than shallower wells. Research providers will submit proposals for this funding under
the normal competitive funding process.