Hydro Tasmania identifies 4,800 MW pumped hydro potential

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Hydro Tasmania identifies 4,800 MW pumped hydro potential

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Australian utility Hydro Tasmania has announced that it has identified eight locations for up to fourteen pumped hydro storage projects in the island-state, located 240km south of the Australian mainland, separated by the Bass Strait.

The so-called Battery of the Nation initiative considered around 2,000 sites to identify these fourteen potential projects, which altogether represent about 4,800 MW of pumped storage capacity.

Hydro Tasmania will now investigate the fourteen options in detail, to narrow them down to a smaller number of sites, equivalent to about 2,500 MW of potential. The company intends to be ready to progress executable projects in the coming months.

The Battery of the Nation analysis reveals that pumped hydro in Tasmania is extremely cost competitive, with the majority of the identified sites having an estimated cost of between AUD1.05 million and AUD1.5 million (US$800,000 and $1.14 million) per megawatt to develop.

This is in part due to the identified options being clustered around Hydro Tasmania’s existing hydro assets, increasing practicality and decreasing cost and speed of construction. 

Battery of the Nation also concluded that Tasmania’s existing hydropower system can be used in a more interconnected national power system, to benefit both Tasmania and the national market, and that Tasmania could also utilise its wind resources could to fill a vital gap in the future market by generating electricity at different times to mainland wind farms.

This analysis is timely given the growing concern over Australia's future energy needs, provoked by the retirement of coal-fired power plants. The federal government is still fighting to prevent the closure of the 2,000 MW Liddell power station in New South Wales, which AGL announced in December. Despite AGL's comprehensive replacement plan (see here and here for more information), the closure risks a 1,000 MW gap in base load, dispatchable power generation.

Hydro Tasmania believes that Battery of the Nation is cost-competitive against all other realistic options for meeting Australia’s future energy needs. However, its realisation requires the development of more interconnection across the Bass Strait.

Thus, the utiility is working with grid operator TasNetworks to progress Marinus Link, a project assessing the feasibility and business case for a second interconnector between Tasmania and mainland Australia. 

Besides closing Australia's future energy gaps, modelling shows that Battery of the Nation and other Tasmanian renewable development opportunities would stimulate up to AUD5 billion (US$3.8 billion) investment and create 3,000 jobs in regional Tasmania over 10 to 15 years.

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