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Tasmanian Wind Energy Challenges

Tasmania has some of the best wind resources in the world and there’s a line of companies looking to harness the energy, but as with so much of Tasmania’s power potential, it hangs on improving interconnection with the mainland.

This month Hydro Tasmania announced more details for its plan to introduce pumped hydro in order to become the “battery of the nation”.

While the hydro scheme stole the headlines, developing more wind farms is a key part of the state’s plan.

The wind farms are meant to provide the cheap power needed to pump the water up during times of low demand.

The Battery of the Nation project isn’t feasible without a second cable to allow the power to be sent to the mainland.

Hydro Tasmania said its initial feasibility results show the plan would be cost competitive even with the additional interconnection costs factored in.

The companies looking to develop wind farms in the island state are, unsurprisingly, strongly backing the push for pumped hydro and the second interconnector, but they could face competition from the mainland.

More power than Tasmania needs

The initial earth works on Tasmania’s newest wind farm have recently been completed and the developer, Gold Wind, hopes to have 48 wind turbines up by next year.

Cattle Hill Wind farm construction site with excavator building access road
PHOTO: The Cattle Hill windfarm is due to come on line at the end of 2019.

The Cattle Hill Wind farm in central Tasmania will produce up to 150 megawatts of power and the company said when it goes live at the end of 2019, it will power around 63,500 homes in the state each year.

The project is one of at least four wind projects currently being planned or developed in Tasmania.

Among them is a plan for what could be the biggest wind farm in the southern hemisphere on Robbins Island.

“But a lot of that really depends around developing the transmission network.”

The full project being proposed for by UPC Renewables would produce more power than Tasmania needs, so it wouldn’t be viable without the second interstate cable.

“We have to literally plan for two different projects on the one site, one is with the second interconnector and one is without the second interconnector,” Mr Rohner said.

Anton Rohner UPC Renewables
PHOTO: Anton Rohner says his company has two plans, one for an interconnector and one without.

“That has an effect on the size of everything you build, the type of roads you would put in place, also the environmental compliance.”

Mr Rohner said Tasmania’s north west has huge potential and has been identified as a potential renewable energy zone.

“It has anywhere from 1500 to 1800 megawatts of potential energy in that zone, that’s sort of $2.2 to $2.8 billion worth of investment for that region.

“In saying that, it could be a bit saturated, so finding that balance in important.”

Tasmania wind farms face Victorian competition

Energy analyst Marc White from Goanna Energy said the need for a second interconnector and additional transmission lines was an impediment for Tasmania’s proposed wind farms.

“Tasmania has some of the best wind resource in the world but some the challenges we have are in terms of building new transmission lines to connect that into the system,” he said.

While proponents of wind farms in Tasmania say the projects would complement those in Victoria because the wind patterns are different, there is still potential for competition.

Mr White said the latest pumped hydro details had “certainly” improved the likelihood of a second interconnector across the Bass Strait being built.

However, he said more details are needed to ensure “the business case stacks up” before a substantial amount of money is spent on assets with a 40 year lifespan.

Energy consultant, Marc White standing in front of a power pole supporting overhead electricity wires
PHOTO: Electricity consultant, Marc White says Tasmania’s pumped hydro systems could end up using Victorian electricity.

“It’s really the assumptions we’re making about what the costs of the new wind farms in Tasmania are likely to be, what the cost base of the new Victorian wind farms are likely to be, whether or not the major industries are going to exist in 10 years time,” he said.

“Those questions all feed into a range of different scenarios that may or may not make the new interconnectors viable.”

The details of how the proposed second interconnector would be funded are yet to be outlined, but traditionally the end user pays.

Mr White said the pumped hydro scheme could end up purchasing the power it needs from Victoria.

“At some times there’ll be no doubt that Tasmanian wind farms will be providing that energy to pump the water back up hill,” he said.

“If that energy is flowing to Tasmania, then Tasmania will pay for that share of the interconnector.”

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