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Energy stories

State poised to be ‘nation’s battery’

Edition 183_Turnbull and the Premier V2

Energy projects worth $3 billion will turn Tasmania into Australia’s battery in a vision unveiled by the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, in April.

He announced in Launceston that the Australian Renewable Energy Agency would contribute $2.5 million for a study into expanding Tasmania’s potential for producing and storing more hydro and wind power.

“There is an opportunity for this State to double the amount of renewable energy it produces,” Mr Turnbull said at Launceston’s Trevallyn Power Station.

“This is a great nation-building story. The sooner we pinpoint those opportunities the better. It will need to involve new infrastructure including power stations and a second Basslink inter-connector.”

The Premier, Will Hodgman, said the plan would set Tasmania up for the next 100 years.

Thirteen pumped hydro storage projects are being considered, including two large-scale proposals involving the Mersey-Forth scheme and one each at the Great Lake and Lake Burbury.

Pumped hydro, in which cheap energy is used when available to pump water back uphill into storages, is seen as a type of large-scale battery that can stabilise supply from such intermittent sources as wind and solar.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency is also assessing plans from Hydro Tasmania to replace the ageing Tarraleah power scheme with a new station which would produce 40 per cent more power and make use of a new 17km tunnel from Lake King William.

It is also considering an application to enhance the Gordon Power Station by installing an extra turbine.

Tasmania is already Australia’s biggest generator of hydro power, doubling the Snowy Hydro Scheme’s output, and the pumped hydro proposals would deliver a further 2,500MW.

Mr Turnbull said the State’s role in national energy security needed to expand as the market moved towards more renewable generation.

More wind farms would be built in Tasmania and the State could also play a bigger role in storing electricity generated by new wind projects in other States.

“As more wind and solar energy enters the mix we need to back that up and store that energy. Tasmania has the potential to be the battery of Australia — a second generation Hydro Tasmania, Tassie Hydro 2.0,” Mr Turnbull said.

Hydro Tasmania’s CEO, Steve Davy, said his organisation’s proposals were not so much about building new dams, but upgrading and connecting existing stations, upgrading others and strengthening the transmission system.

Mr Turnbull said: “Enhancing Tasmania’s considerable hydro-electric 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.”

The proposals would strengthen Tasmania’s energy security, and allow it to export more power.

A study into a second inter-connector cable to increase Tasmania’s energy security after last year’s Basslink breakdown was released by John Tamblyn in April.

Dr Tamblyn, a former Chairman of the Australian Energy Market Commission, estimated the cost of the cable at up to $1.1 billion.

He found that its economic benefits would depend on growth in the State’s energy system and demand in the National Energy Market, but that was before Mr Turnbull’s announcement.

Mr Hodgman said Tasmania planned to invest about $1 billion over the next 10 years to maintain and refurbish existing hydro power assets.

The Federal Minister for Environment and Energy, Josh Frydenberg, said Tasmania could become an important power source for Victoria after the closure of the Hazelwood brown coal plant in March.

Mr Turnbull had announced a plan earlier in the month to use pumped hydro to boost the capacity of the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme by 50 per cent.

Meanwhile, an innovative research project is underway on Bruny Island driven by about 35 subsidised battery systems installed in homes with solar panels.

A computerised system run by TasNetworks tells residents, in real time, the price they will be paid if they contribute their stored power to the Bruny Network at times of high demand.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency has contributed nearly $3 million to the project in the hope that it will reduce diesel generation on the island in times of peak demand, while also providing a blueprint for a possible national rollout of the concept.

In Launceston, a $2 million solar project with 4,000 panels is expected to reduce the city’s carbon dioxide emissions by 600 tonnes a year.

Nest Energy’s Mark Barnett said: “The power that is generated will be sold to the tenants at a price which is significantly less than they are experiencing and any surplus will go into the grid and be on-sold.”

The project is expected to have a 35-year lifespan.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures for 2015–16 showed that renewable energy provided 1,190 jobs across the State with 1,040 in hydro, 100 in solar and 30 in wind.

Image courtesy of The Mercury

1 May 2017, Edition 183

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