The project is part of Hydro Tasmania’s 10-year upgrade programme triggered by the Australian government’s Mandated Renewable Energy Target (MRET) legislation and the imminent entry of Tasmania into the National Electricity Market wholesale power pool.

Hydro Tasmania is the primary electric power supplier in the island state. It owns and operates 2260MW of hydro power plants suitable for peak supply with significant energy storage. The Poatina power station, near Launceston, is Hydro Tasmania’s second largest power station. The underground facility was brought into service in 1965 and houses six 50MW generators.

ge-hydro, a unit of GE Power Systems, and Hydro Tasmania will work together to develop the best technical and commercially feasible solution for uprating this hydro power station. Using a joint project management team, the two companies will assess the current condition of the power station, establish world-class best practices, specify the work to be done and develop a budget prior to the start of project execution.

The GE-Hydro Tasmania relationship takes advantage of the MRET, which provides a market-based incentive for operators of existing renewable energy assets to maintain and upgrade their aging facilities, many of which are 30-40 years old. The government is seeking to increase renewable energy output from 10.5% to 12.5% of Australia’s total electricity supply y 2010 as part of its Kyoto commitment to greenhouse gas abatement. The incentive programme uses tradable renewable energy certificates that provide a premium of up to US$22.5MWh, over and above the normal wholesale price for new renewable energy production.

‘This project is a key step in Hydro Tasmania’s programme to leverage our existing assets by taking advantage of new technologies to enhance their operation,’ said Geoff Willis, chief executive officer of Hydro Tasmania. ‘This means more renewable energy will be made available to the marketplace and will thus contribute to reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.’