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Tasmania back to 100% renewable electricity as dams replenish

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Tasmania has returned to 100 per cent renewable electricity – at least temporarily – as significant rainfalls replenished dam levels and the the state was able to operate without gas-fired or diesel generation for the first time since the beginning of the year.

tasmania

The return to 100 per cent renewable electricity (highlighted above in RenewEconomy’s live generation widget) has also brought with it a significant fall in the price of wholesale electricity.

In recent days wholesale prices have fallen below $30/MWh and averaged in the mid $40s/MWh,  compared to nearly $300/MWh when it was forced to rely on gas and diesel.

The ability to switch off its fossil fuel power and rely instead on hydro, wind and solar means that Tasmania has gone from having the most expensive electricity in the country, to the cheapest.

Tasmania has been facing an energy crisis since late December when the Basslink cable to the mainland was cut, damn levels fell to record low levels, and bushfires forced some hydro plants to switch off.

The state was forced to restart its mothballed gas-fired generator, import new parts from the Middle East and also bring in 200MW of diesel gen-sets to ensure there was enough power.

Rains over last week and the weekend have lifted dam levels back up above 16 per cent, allowing the hydro generators to run harder over recent days, eliminating the need for expensive fossil fuels. Diesel has not been used since May 1, and the gas generator was switched off on May 11.

Update: Hydro Tasmania CEO Stephen Davy said in a later statement power stations associated with Hydro Tasmania’s smaller storages are generating at maximum capacity to minimise the chance of precious rainwater from spilling and being wasted.

“The past 10 days have been very positive. We’ve had more rain than predicted and our storages have risen strongly,” he said. “There’s currently enough hydro and wind energy available to meet all Tasmanian demand. For the first time in months, our island is being powered solely by renewable energy.”

However, Davy said the business is still taking a cautious and prudent approach to recovering from the current situation.

“We may require some bursts of diesel and gas generation over coming months. The Energy Supply Plan was designed to allow flexible generation depending on circumstances: if it rains more, we will generate less from gas and diesel. If it rains less, we will generate more.”

Last month, the Tasmania government won agreement from Canberra to co-fund a study into a second cable to the mainland. Many analysts are supportive of this move, but only if it is accompanied by more wind and solar output that would allow more renewable energy to be exported to the mainland, rather than paving the way for more coal-fired generation to be imported.

   

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  • Robert Comerford

    But will they now put the infrastructure in place so the next dry period doesn’t need fossil fuel input…hmmmm?

    • Mike Westerman

      One can only hope that various planned and “stuck” wind farms will proceed quickly to assist in the replenishing of dam levels. Tas has no excuse not to be 100% renewable with its enviable mix of great wind resources plus extensive hydro. Some additional pumped storage may also make sense.

      • David Hall

        I have not checked this but I would be very surprised if Tasmania could not be 100% renewable plus a net export of renewable energy.
        If we had bankable policies on the RET I am sure this would happen relatively quickly.

      • eddierothmanisatool

        why on earth would anyone build a windfarm anywhere in the world nowadays with solar falling at 25%/annum. who would sign a ppa? it makes zero sense. hydro tasmania will never turn a profit ever again

        • Mike Westerman

          Becoz wind is way cheaper in Tas becoz of excellent wind resource while solar resource is poor. It is very often counter seasonal – when it’s windy in Tas it’s usually overcast, rarely still. Winter days are very short whereas wind is pretty constant year around (Hobart <10% calm days)

          • eddierothmanisatool

            Completely untrue. At 3.5hrs/day which most solar models would use for tasmania this gives lcoe cost of 9-12c/kWh. This is cheaper than musselroe. Full stop. Musselroe is one of the best wind sites in the country. Solar is only getting cheaper. Wind is not. I’m assuming your not in the energy business.

          • Mike Westerman

            Rude fellow aren’t you! I’ve been doing renewables projects since I did my honours thesis in solar 36y ago, and currently working on GW sized hydro so keep your facitious comments to yourself. Based on recent wind figures Tas should be able to do wind for $60/MWh, while your optimistic figures for large scale solar are double that. Wind is getting cheaper, particularly with 5MW machines and 7MW on the way, and better site modelling. Solar is plateauing slowly as would be expected as scale effects are largely achieved. There’s plenty of time to recover comfortably on onshore wind in Tas if there was less obstructionist ill informed resistance to getting on with it.

          • GregX

            Why not have both solar and wind. The 29 dams and 40 storage lakes would make perfect floating solar locations. Any excess production can be exported across Basslink. Alternatively look to use the excess for any pumped hydro opportunities assuming there are some. If they are real keen then why not consider a desalination plant to use excess production which would supplement water supply during the inevitable next climate change induced drought. Tassie has plenty of options to ensure they have the cleanest air in the world; the ultimate niche tourism market of the future perhaps!

          • eddierothmanisatool

            record solar:

            http://cleantechnica.com/2016/05/02/lowest-solar-price-dubai-800-mw-solar-project/

            solar is at scale? really. its at 2.5% market penetration. thats the innovative uptake phase. not even early adopters.

            cheapest wind in oz

            http://reneweconomy.com.au/2015/sa-wind-farm-delivers-cheapest-wind-energy-ever-procured-in-australia-68843

            hydro tasmania will never deliver wind cheaper than 100/mwh. the business is not capable

          • Mike Westerman

            Hydro Tas should focus on what it’s good at – hydro – and leave wind to its JV with the Chinese. The record solar is off virtually zero interest rates – not available in Oz. Wind resources in Tas better than SA or ACT.

            Greg X – definitely go with roof top solar where you can – the hydro means even when they’re generating you won’t have the problems coal based states have with their inflexible generation. Tassies definitely has no excuse not to be 150% renewable.

          • eddierothmanisatool

            again this is not true. are you saying wind is not able to access ZIRP financing? solar as i said and is widely evidenced is falling at 20-25%/annum. in commercial sector payback can be as little as 4 years. can you show me a wind project anywhere on earth that can achieve paybacks this fast? installed solar is now $1.67/watt (thats in australia with zero finance). thats using german or israeli inverters and tier 1 panels. anyone who understands the rapidly crumbling centralised delivery/vertical integration model of power delivery knows that signing a PPA in this disruptive period is like being long kodak film in 1999. hydro tasmania was good at hydro once upon a time. now all its good at is destroying shareholder value (the tasmanian taxpayer) and seeking more federal handouts to build a white elephant second interconnector. again this shows either the management and pollies are out of touch with shifts in the power market or they are doing their best to milk what is left of centralised power architecture before again the taxpayer is asked to decommission and mothball all these dinosaurs.

          • Mike Westerman

            Only a fool would take on ZIRP with exchange rate risk. Rooftop solar is 2.6% of Oz generation according to RE today so it will take some time till it hurts market price of lignite or low cost black coal producers. So no “rapid crumbling” for some time tho’ fundamental changes will eventually occur.
            At 6% discount factor 25y and $1.67/W, a Tas installation has LCOE of $93/MWh. The fastest rate of fall in costs is with large scale – not surprising given much higher labour component in rooftop, and there in US rate of fall is 25% in 2y according to CERC. Large scale solar projects will naturally go to Qld and NSW where insolation is 40-50% higher than Tas. Of course rooftop has rapid simple payback becoz of high network charges – irrelevant to argument.
            A big factor in wrecking value in HydroTas was LNP announcing and enacting abolition of price on carbon. HT banked on making hay while the sun shone, not figuring on a cable break. A 2nd cable has never stacked up but energy self sufficiency makes sense. Even if the remaining 87% of Tas houses put rooftop solar in you still wouldn’t get there – just 3 Musselroe or Woolnorth wind farms would give same power but x2.5 the energy for 30% higher capital cost than your $1.67/W.

    • Rohan Bussell

      They need to do something to offset the risks of being totally dependent on hydro.
      Pumped hydro is a way of dealing with that…upgrading the hydro like the federal government is planning for snowy river hydro would be another way of boosting efficiency and output.

  • Charles

    A bit of additional context – the Tasmanian hydro system includes around 29 dams and 40 water storages (lakes and so on). Generation capacities range from 0.25MW to 430MW and the lakes are similarly varied in size.
    The dams have been running flat out for the past few days because the moderate amount of rain over the past week has been enough to fill some of the smaller storages to the point where if the dams are not operating, the water will spill over the top.
    But these are only the small ones – the larger storages such as Lake Gordon and Great Lake are still close to the 10% range. The larger dams powered by water from these lakes are not running to allow the storages to build.
    You can see each lake (including details of level over the last year) at http://www.hydro.com.au/water/lake-levels
    Overall the total statewide energy in storage has gone from 13.0% to 16.1% over the last week (until Monday) and a similar increase is expected next week.

    • David Osmond

      Thanks Charles, very useful additional information

    • JeffJL

      Good site.

  • lin

    It would make a lot of sense to accelerate installation of renewables, you would think. But I cannot remember when the Libs had their last sensible idea WRT renewables. Perhaps a change of leadership in July might change things.

    • caffdan

      One can only hope!

  • 2ontrack

    Actually Tasmania is pretty screwed. The government sold all our power to the mainland for carbon credits and a nice pay packet via basslink and drained all our dams. Basslink then broke and they haven’t managed to fix it to import powere back. The dams have been running at less then 13% which has probably caused damage to the turbines. The Liberals then had to rent 150 great big dirty diesel generators at a cost of 42 million plus 20 million every month. We have finally had some rain which raised the dams by 3% which they are desperately trying to use up as the dams will empty anyway. The government also had to pay big industry millions to cut their power usage down to prevent the state from having brown outs. We have a major power crisis that’s going to take years to fix and its very probable that the diesel generatos will be switched on again. Shame on you for posting such rubbish!

    • eddierothmanisatool

      well said

    • Mike Westerman

      And I suppose you would have screamed if Tas had ignored the 10s of $millions they made from the carbon market until Abbott decided to take Oz back to the ’50s? Tas took the opportunity it had in front of it albeit various ludites have been holding up wind projects that would let it continue to make money once the Abbott policies have gone the way of the dinosaurs. Except that you’ve voted in more dinosaurs to try to stop that from happening.