Opinion: Icon of the past looks to the future

By Paul Molnar, Battery of the Nation Project Director, Hydro Tasmania
For more than 100 years, water and the clean energy it generates has supported Tasmania’s prosperity and growth. Hydropower’s role as a renewable energy supply has never been more critical as Australia and the world seeks to secure a low emissions future to combat climate change.

The Tarraleah scheme in Tasmania’s Derwent Valley/Central Highlands is a great example of past hydropower pioneering efforts and the bright future energy opportunity. Tarraleah just celebrated its 85th anniversary and remains an important part of Hydro Tasmania’s annual generation.

But the scheme is ageing and in need of significant investment to ensure it can keep operating safely and reliably well into the future. While it’s been faithfully generating for decades, it is not flexible enough to respond to changes in consumer demand for power or in the variability in power supply that comes from increasing amounts of wind and solar power in our grid.

This creates an opportunity for Hydro Tasmania to rethink Tarraleah’s future, and to plan for a scheme that could better meet future electricity market needs and return benefits to Tasmanians. As Australia moves to using more and more renewable energy from wind and solar for its power, that’s great news for the environment.

But it also brings its own challenge, because wind and solar can’t be relied upon alone to power our needs. Australia needs energy storage and quick generating response as back-up (it’s called dispatchable energy) when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining.

The decorated floor of the Tarraleah Power Station foyer

This is where Tarraleah and Hydro Tasmania’s Battery of the Nation ambitions come into their own. The hydropower system that has served Tasmanians so well for over a century can be upgraded and expanded to provide even more clean, reliable energy for us and for the nation.

Hydro Tasmania is now investigating the commercial viability of redeveloping the Tarraleah scheme,
so it can generate reliable energy on demand. Over the past several years, Hydro Tasmania has done a range of environmental, social and heritage assessments, and there are more thorough studies to come in moving towards an investment decision.

Further investigations are now underway into recreation impacts, traffic, construction workforce accommodation, visual impacts and how to mitigate these. We are also looking into ways to involve local communities in sharing the benefits of the project.

Councils, land and shack owners, irrigators, anglers, kayakers and any interested party will all be able to have their say on a future redevelopment. Your voice is important to us, to ensure we understand any issues, concerns and opportunities. The team are always happy to be out talking with locals and there’s a new project page with the latest information – https://connect.hydro.com.au/reimagining-tarraleah

There is an environmental assessment process now under way with the federal environmental regulator. Through our studies, we’ve identified that the construction and operation of the proposed redeveloped scheme has the potential to impact on some nationally significant flora and fauna. The process we’re undertaking spells out what these impacts are and how we plan to lessen them (or avoid them altogether). We will keep the community updated as the assessment progresses at our project page.

You may have already seen that our teams and contractors are busy on the ground at Lake King William and Mossy Marsh Dam. This is to deliver a staged program of upgrade works that are important for the scheme’s future. The works are supported with funding from the Federal Government and enable us to maintain our ability to progress redevelopment and manage risk on ageing assets… a win-win.

This exciting future is all dependent on getting a bigger power link to the mainland because Marinus Link will open up even greater two-way energy market access, unlocking our state’s abundant renewable energy potential. By realising this potential, Tasmanians can be proud that we are doing our bit to address climate change, while also reaping the benefits of access to affordable power, greater economic returns to the state, and the jobs and investment that will help grow our economy for the future.

Tarraleah stands ready to play its shining role in that bright future.

Main picture: A downstream view of the Tarraleah Power Station in the upper Derwent Valley.

See more Derwent Valley and Central Highlands news

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