Did You Know… a Māori land organization uses geothermal power generation to improve energy sovereignty and sustainability efforts?
The Tūaropaki Trust is a Māori land organization in the heart of New Zealand. While it began in the 1950s with 297 families unifying their lands for the sake of sheep and beef farming, it quickly became much more than that. Today, the trust’s influence has expanded to global reaches and has benefited Māori communities through its bolstering of energy sovereignty. The trust accomplished this, in part, due to its utilization of geothermal heat!
According to the trust’s organizational values, they strive to use “wisdom, knowledge and science to address current and future challenges,” as well as to “look after the land.” Part of this mission involved the trust becoming one of the earlier developers of geothermal power. In 2000, the trust had completed and commissioned Mokai 1 — its first 55MWe geothermal power plant. At the time of its completion, the Mokai geothermal project was the largest privately developed and owned, as well as the most technologically advanced geothermal project in New Zealand. And by 2002, it had built a 5.5 hectare state-of-the-art geothermal heated glasshouse in the Mokai field, the produce from which helped the trust establish their produce company “Gourmet Mokai.”
Their adoption of geothermal technologies didn’t stop there, though. After the creation of Gourmet Mokai, Tūaropaki decided to build a second geothermal power plant. Dubbed Mokai 2, the 38MWe plant began generating power in 2005. The expansion of their geothermal technologies allowed Gourmet Mokai to build an additional 6.2 hectare geothermal heated glasshouse and fostered a growing momentum for novel geothermal infrastructure.
Tūaropaki’s next venture involving geothermal energy was its geothermally heated and powered milk powder processing factory at Mokai — the first of its kind. The company, called “Miraka,” is now one of the world’s most sustainable dairy producers. By 2015, the trust’s success led to its purchase of MB Century, a leading New Zealand energy provider with expertise in drilling services, energy research and development and geothermal and hydro station maintenance.
In perhaps one of their most impressive feats, the trust entered into a hydrogen joint venture pilot project with Obayashi Corporation of Japan in 2018 to establish Halcyon Power. This piloted the production of carbon free hydrogen by using geothermal energy to electrolyse hydrogen from water. All of these developments in power, including geothermal energy adoption, helped the trust expand exponentially. It was able to partner with, invest in and adopt many further projects, power-related and otherwise. This included investing in a San Francisco based food tech company that works on reducing global food waste and developing a Wasabi growing operation out of Canada, just to name a few. Today, the Tūaropaki geothermal power station produces 113 MW of electricity and delivers it through a 22 km connection line to the New Zealand National Grid. What an amazing success story!