The largest geothermal development in New Zealand in over a decade is well underway at the foot of Mount Tauhara. Contact Energy’s new power station will deliver 168MW of electricity when completed in 2023 – a whopping 3% of all New Zealand’s power generation – and will displace 450,000 tons of carbon emissions per year, the equivalent of removing 200,000 petrol cars off the road.
More than a third of the $800 million investment in the project is being spent within the Taupō
district, including construction and engineering contracts delivered by local firms. There are over 500 jobs working on-site at peak construction, and the opportunity to be part of this large-scale world-class project is attracting new talent to Taupō.
The chance to work on a project of this significance was irresistible to Leighton Taylor, a mechanical engineer who specialises in geothermal engineering. Leighton has spent the past six years working in Auckland for engineering firm, MTL, focused on international geothermal projects. However, working on a New Zealand-based project of this scale was one of his career goals, so he took the leap and set up his own consultancy to bring his skillset to the project.
Through his work and as a Board Member of the New Zealand Geothermal Association, Leighton has noted the need to ensure a consistent New Zealand-based pipeline of industry professionals. “New Zealand has world-leading senior geothermal engineers, but it is critical that when the most senior leaders in the field are finally ready to hang up their high-vis vests, the upcoming generations of geothermal experts are gaining the skills and experience they need to ensure the industry will remain in capable hands,” says Leighton. “Being a part of the Tauhara project is a really exciting opportunity for me personally, but it is also important for our industry that smaller firms and engineers at different stages in their careers can gain experience on projects like this.”
Leighton’s company, LTENZ, is contracting to Sumitomo, the project’s lead contractors. “My
colleagues have been supportive, connecting me with a local accountant and helping me to hit the ground running.”
Leighton and his wife moved from Auckland in January with a brand-new baby and he got stuck straight into work within days of arriving. “It has been a hectic time, but after a tough year of lockdowns in Auckland, we are really happy to be here by the lake with the mountains and forests nearby, it’s like a breath of fresh air.”
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