Govt planning hydro expansion in Tasmania

20 April 2017

The Australian Government has unveiled plans to expand the hydropower system in Tasmania, including investigating new pumped storage potential and investigating the expansion of the existing power stations.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman released a joint statement today explaining how the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will work with utility company 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 plans for 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 500-700 MW each - and an alternative of nine small scale sites totalling 500MW.

Prime Minister Turnbull said an expanded hydro system in Tasmania could provide enough electricity to power 500,000 homes. Federal Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg and his Tasmanian counterpart Matthew Groom will continue to work on the project.

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.

Tasmanian Premier 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.

With regards to the expansion plans, the Tarraleah Power Station was commissioned in 1938 and produces about 550GWh of renewable energy each year - about 6% of Hydro Tasmania’s total production.

The Tarraleah replacement proposal would extend the station’s operating life by 80 years, and involve constructing a 17km long underground tunnel from Lake King William.

The redevelopment would be the first time Hydro Tasmania has completely replaced one of its major stations. The existing station would require significant investment in refurbishment to continue operating effectively.

The feasibility study will also explore the opportunity of adding pumped hydro capability to Tarraleah.

The redevelopment of Tarraleah would boost renewable production by up to 210 gigawatt hours each year.

The second project to be investigated – Gordon - is the largest power station in Tasmania, and the only station on the Gordon/Pedder scheme. The station was commissioned in 1977 with two turbines. A third turbine was commissioned in 1988. The study includes investigation of adding an additional small turbine at Gordon to improve efficiency.

“These proposals are an exciting product of discussions we’re having with the Tasmanian and Federal Governments on ways to boost Tasmania’s renewable energy generation and contribution to the National Electricity Market (NEM),” said Hydro Tasmania's CEO Steve Davy. “We’ve discussed upgrading and adding to Tasmania’s hydropower network, as well as the potential for new private wind farm development and pumped storage opportunities. Hydro Tasmania has the skills, experience and passion to help lead Australia through the challenging transition.”

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