Tasmania looks beyond Basslink to maintain state energy security

Water pipeline to Hydro-Electric power station at Tarraleah, Tasmania
Water pipeline to Hydro-Electric power station at Tarraleah, Tasmania
  • Work continues on installing up to 200MW of temporary diesel generation with the expected arrival of diesel generators this week at Catagunya Power Station
  • Hydro Tasmania will begin its annual cloud seeding season one month early
  • Rowallan Power Station has been returned to service following fire damage to transmission lines last month. All generation assets affected by fire have now been returned to service.
  • Total energy in storage at February 29 is 16.1 per cent.


A range of actions are being initiated in response to the unprecedented situation of record low rainfall and the Basslink outage, even in the event of the loss of a major power station and cool, dry weather.

Tasmania is facing an unprecedented energy situation with dams approaching record lows and the undersea Basslink cable still out of action.

In response to what the state government has labelled “challenging times”, Hydro Tasmania, TasNetworks and others in government have developed the Energy Supply Plan to ensure the state’s energy needs continue to be met.

Focusing on the installation of up to 200MW of temporary diesel generation, the contingency plan includes preparing Catagunya Power Station for operation. The first tranche of 100MW will be installed by the end of March with the first site at Catagunya Power Station to be generating 24MW by around March 8. The second tranche of 100MW will be in place by the end of April.

“…this is a serious situation and not a time for cheap politics…”

Site works are also starting at Meadowbank Power Station, and are underway at George Town substation.

Generation from gas and temporary diesel, along with voluntary load reductions by large consumers, will be well in excess of the import capacity of Basslink. This will ensure Tasmanian demand can be met, even with a prolonged Basslink outage.

If the power cable under Bass Strait is not repaired by the start of May, or there is less winter rainfall than expected to replenish hydro-power generation dams, the Government has said it will consider securing more gas turbines for the Tamar Valley Power Station.

Cloud seeding to counteract record dry weather

Hydro Tasmania also announced it will begin its cloud seeding season one month earlier than has been usual recent practice. The government-owned enterprise normally undertakes annual cloud seeding over hydro-generation catchments between May and October (inclusive) each year.

“Due to the unprecedented dry conditions since September 2015 we are planning to commence operations a month early in 2016. An aircraft has been chartered and will be available from April 1,” Hydro Tasmania acting CEO Andrew Catchpole said.

“While seeding over hydro-generation catchments will have the highest priority, Hydro Tasmania is also prepared to undertake cloud seeding over agricultural catchments and bear the cost of this extra activity.”

Cloud seeding can only occur if cloud conditions are favourable. Historical information shows there is a good chance of being able to undertake some cloud seeding activity during April.

Lake Mackenzie fire damage repaired

Rowallan Power Station was also returned to service last week, following repairs to fire-damaged transmission line. It was the last of three power stations to be returned to service after fire in the Lake Mackenzie area during January caused extensive damage to a significant amount of infrastructure associated with the stations. This included power poles, communications services and the transmission line between Fisher and Rowallan power stations.

The Rowallan-Fisher 22kv line was completed by TasNetworks ready for energising on February 23, and the line was energised by Hydro Tasmania the following day.

The combined capacity of all of these contingencies, including the voluntary load reductions undertaken by the major industrials, substantially exceeds the import capacity of Basslink, with the state’s Energy Minister Matthew Groom saying, “this is a serious situation and not a time for cheap politics”.

“It is important to note while the costs are significant, our strong budget management since coming to government ensures we have the capacity to absorb the impact of circumstances such as this,” he said.

“The plan will achieve energy security without the need for forced energy savings, but as we have made clear, Hydro will continue to discuss the situation with the major energy users and consider any additional prudent proposals that they may put forward.”

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