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Powering Tasmania’s future

Edition 196_Tarraleah

Tasmania’s plan to become the ‘Battery of the Nation’ is moving closer to reality with a $500 million transformation of the Tarraleah Power Station on the cards.

It was in April last year that Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, first championed his vision of the island state as Australia’s battery – to be powered along by $3 billion worth of energy projects.

This would mean that as an increasing number of coal-fired power stations are retired as we seek clean green energy, Tasmania, with its enormous potential for producing hydro and wind power, would step in and fill the void.

“There is an opportunity for this State to double the amount of renewable energy it produces,” the Prime-Minister said at the time.

“This is a great nation-building story…it will need to involve new infrastructure including power stations.”

The Tarraleah Power Station may be one of Tasmania’s oldest hydro assets but it is very much part of this future.

A recently announced $5 million feasibility study – jointly funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and Hydro Tasmania – is looking into the redevelopment of the ageing Tarraleah scheme.

If it gets the green light, this will be a major infrastructure project three years in the making, costing some $500 million. It would transform the Central Highlands scheme, which was commissioned in the 1930s, into a state-of-the art hydropower asset.

Tarraleah currently contributes 6.5 per cent of Hydro’s total production, and this proposed overhaul would more than double the power station’s capacity – taking it from 104 to 220 megawatts (MW).

It would also ensure Tarraleah as a central plank in plans to turn Tasmania into Australia’s battery.

“While pumped hydro and wind power attract most of the attention, getting more electricity from our existing hydropower assets will also be crucial. We can start by finding another 116 MW from Tarraleah,” Hydro Tasmania CEO, Steve Davy, said.

“Battery of the Nation is about locking in our island’s energy security and giving Tasmanians the lowest possible power prices. It offers a future that’s clean, reliable and affordable.

“This upgrade will also transform Tarraleah into Tasmania’s first truly 21st century hydropower station – adding stability and flexibility to Australia’s future clean energy market.”

The proposed Tarraleah transformation follows hot on the heels of another Battery of the Nation milestone: a short-list of 14 ‘high potential’ pumped hydro sites, which were unveiled in mid-June.

These sites are spread over eight locations in the Central Highlands and on the north, and north-west coasts. Five are at Lake Cethana; two at Lakes Murchison and Margaret; and one each at Lakes Parangana, Rowallan, Rosebery, Echo and Great Lake/yingina.

Hydro Tasmania will commence investigations into the suitability of these various sites and is expected to reduce the list by about half.

Pumped hydro is a game-changer for Tasmania – the key to the state’s future as Australia’s battery.

Put simply, it’s the creation of a large-scale ‘battery’ where water can be re-used, meaning no new dams are needed.

When energy is cheap to produce, water that has been released into dams is pumped back uphill to a reservoir where it is kept in storage. As demand requires, the water is again released through the turbines providing additional power into the electricity grid.

Tasmania is already Australia’s biggest generator of hydro power, but pumped hydro would double that capacity by adding an extra 2,500 MW.

“Doubling Tasmania’s clean energy would also create a surplus, beyond our island’s needs, to support mainland Australia. That’s crucial to replace the coal power that’s being phased out,” Mr Davy added.

Pumped Hydro would also be an economic windfall with Federal Energy Minister, Josh Frydenberg, predicting it could potentially deliver $5 billion of investment and 3,000 jobs in regional Tasmania over the next 10 to 15 years.

For more than a century, Hydro has shaped Tasmania.

There are 30 power stations spread across the state; developed during our first era of ‘hydro-industrialisation’ which began in 1916 when hydro-electricity was created for the very first time at Waddamana in the Central Highlands.

Now, led by pumped hydro and transformed assets – like the Tarraleah Power Station – we are about to embark on a journey into next generation hydro.

A journey Premier Will Hodgman has proclaimed will “set Tasmania up for the next 100 years.”

Image Courtesy of Hydro Tasmania

11 July 2018, Edition 196

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