Pumped hydro action in Tasmania

Tasmania’s hydro power capacity is set for expansion which could cost more than $3 billion, with potential to provide enough extra energy to power half a million homes.

Two big pumped hydro storage projects involving the Mersey-Forth scheme and one each at the Great Lake and Lake Burbury would be examined, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Premier Will Hodgman revealed on Thursday, plus an alternative of nine smaller projects.

They said the governments would start expanding the state’s hydro system to “provide affordable, reliable electricity as we transition to a lower emissions future”.

They said the Australian Renewable Energy Agency would support a Hydro Tasmania feasibility study assessing the pumped hydro schemes, and expansions of the Gordon and Tarraleah power stations would be examined.

Mr Turnbull said an expanded Tasmanian hydro system could provide enough electricity to power 500,000 homes.

“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,” 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.”

Such an expansion would increase Tasmania’s energy security, and allow it to rake in more export dollars from exporting power to the mainland.

A second Basslink-type interconnector cable to the mainland has been proposed, with supporters arguing it would underpin wind farm expansion.

A study into the proposed second cable by John Tamblyn was released on Thursday.

He found another cable might be of benefit, but it would depend on growth in the state energy system and the National Energy Market.

The state government will consider Dr Tamblyn’s recommendation to accelerate a detailed business case for the second cable.

Pumped hydro is seen as a type of storage battery for intermittent renewable energy, such as wind power.

Mr Hodgman said the state government wanted Tasmania to become the nation’s “renewable energy battery”.

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

Hydro Tasmania welcomed the announcement, saying Tasmania was uniquely placed to “help lead Australia through its energy challenges.”