Tasmania to become ‘battery of Australia’

Water pipeline to Hydro-Electric power station at Tarraleah, Tasmania
Water pipeline to Hydro-Electric power station at Tarraleah, Tasmania

Tasmania is on the way to becoming a “battery for the nation” after the Turnbull Government announced a plan to double the state’s hydropower output.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will contribute $2.5 million and work with Hydro Tasmania on feasibility studies to assess several new pumped hydro energy storage schemes that could deliver up to 2500MW of storage capacity for the National Electricity Market, as well as examining expansion of the Tarraleah and Gordon Power Stations.

ARENA will examine four large projects ­– Mersey Forth-1, Mersey Forth-2, Great Lake and Lake Burbury – with capacity of around 500-700MW each and an alternative of nine small-scale sites totalling 500MW.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull visited the Trevallyn Power Station in Tasmania on Thursday for the announcement, alongside Premier Will Hodgman, Federal Minister Josh Frydenberg and Hydro Tasmania chief executive Steve Davy.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said an expanded hydro system in Tasmania could provide enough electricity to power 500,000 homes.

“There is an opportunity here for Tasmania to play an even bigger part in ensuring that Australians have reliable and affordable energy and, of course, that we meet our emissions reduction targets as we do,” Mr Turnbull said.

“It is a huge opportunity. Potentially Tasmania could become a battery for Australia.

“In an age of distributed, variable renewable power Tasmania’s capacity to contribute not just to the energy security of Tasmania but the energy security of Australia is greatly enhanced.

“We’ve talked about Snowy Hydro 2.0 – this could be Tassie Hydro 2.0.”

The proposed expansion comes on the back of plans for Snowy 2.0 and supports the Turnbull Government’s technology neutral approach to affordable, reliable electricity.

Enhancing Tasmania’s considerable hydroelectric and renewables potential will provide new economic opportunities.

Pumped hydro can further stabilise the National Electricity Market and underpin additional wind investment in the state.

Hydro Tasmania chief executive said the company was working with ARENA on two separate studies.

“One study looks at how to increase the energy output from our system,” Mr Davy said.

“The biggest component is the potential replacement of the Tarraleah Power Station, which was built over 80 years ago and that would increase the output of Tarraleah Power Station by around about 40 per cent.

“The second study is looking at 13 separate pumped hydro opportunities to test them for feasibility.

“The nine smaller ones increase the amount of energy from the system and increase the efficiency of the system – but the four larger ones, the stand-alone pumped hydro projects… add up to about 2500MWh, which would about double the capacity of the hydro system in Tasmania.”

Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman said the opportunity to expand the hydro system is enhanced by the fact that over the next 10 years Tasmania will invest around $1 billion in maintaining and refurbishing the state’s existing hydropower assets.

“What we are talking about today sets up Hydro Tasmania and, indeed, our state for the next 100 years,” Mr Hodgman said.

“This will place us as the renewable energy battery of the nation, doubling hydro’s capacity… and that will be fuelled through the projects that we are talking about today.”

The ARENA supported work builds on the study by Dr John Tamblyn, released on Thursday, into a second interconnector.

Dr Tamblyn’s report finds another interconnector might be beneficial, but will depend on the ongoing development of the electricity system in Tasmania and the National Electricity Market.

After taking into account all these changes, the Tasmanian Government will consider the recommendation to accelerate a detailed business case for a second interconnector.