By Amelia Willis, Partnerships Ranger based in Taupō.
Conservation Week was the perfect chance to round up a group of locals and take them to see how conservation is working right on their doorstep—in particular, how geothermal energy production and the conservation of a geothermal area can work side by side.
20 interested visitors gathered for a full day Sulphur and secrets expedition—putting aside their busy lives for a unique experience.
Organised by DOC, in conjunction with the Rotokawa Joint Venture (a partnership between Tauhara North No. 2 Trust and Mighty River Power) the day began with a tour of the Ngā Awa Purua power station, followed by the exploration of the neighbouring Lake Rotokawa geothermal area.
We were welcomed to the power station and given an introduction to geothermal generation at Rotokawa. We then split into smaller groups and were guided around the plant’s cooling towers, separators, turbines and control room, absorbing the information from our knowledgeable and passionate hosts.
We learnt about the importance of geothermal energy as a reliable and renewable energy source that doesn’t rely on the weather.
An interesting fact was that it would take the geothermal power station up to seven years to emit the same amount of carbon that an equivalently sized coal power station puts out in just one day.
Geothermal now makes up about 15% of New Zealand’s entire electricity supply— a number we hope will continue to grow, replacing even more fossil-fuel generation.
The group then moved to the conservation area of Lake Rotokawa to see steaming craters and bubbling pits.
DOC’s Dr Harry Keys explained the features of this unique landscape, using both fact and flair. Each spot was more fascinating than the last, with names like Aniwaniwa/Rainbow Crater, Sauron’s Eye and Mars Flats.
The area was used as a sulphur mine in the 80s, but was later made a site of National Significance due to the unique nature of the flora and fauna that thrive there.
It was easy to forget, while exploring this hidden conservation treasure, that geothermal extraction, injection and generation, were happening so close by. It is testament to the Rotokawa Joint Venture and DOC working so well together.
Enlightened and amazed, the group ended their day admiring the sulphur crystal cliffs.
With limited spaces available, if you’d like to go on this trip you should book now on the DOC website.