Basslink cable damaged during maintenance, out until mid-April

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The under-sea cable linking Tasmania’s electricity market to that of the Australian mainland has been accidentally damaged during maintenance work, taking it out of action until mid-April.

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The under-sea cable linking Tasmania’s electricity market to that of the Australian mainland has been accidentally damaged during maintenance work, taking it out of action until mid-April.

The operator of the cable, Basslink, said on Wednesday it had been undertaking “planned maintenance works” of the 289km Basslink Interconnector when a third-party contractor damaged a piece of equipment at a transition station in Victoria.

“Given the damaged equipment is unique, it will require appropriate expertise and equipment from overseas for repair before the interconnector can recommence operations,” Basslink said in a statement.

“Based on current information, its anticipated return to service date is 14 April 2018.”

The outage comes as federal government-backed studies investigate the business case for a second interconnector across the Bass Strait, to complement – and back up – the existing cable.

It also follows a push for Australia’s island state to become the “battery of the nation,” by expanding its hydro power capacity and developing “significant” pumped hydro resources to store and dispatch renewable energy – feasibility studies into which have also been backed by ARENA.

Meanwhile, the recently re-elected Tasmania Liberal government has also flagged the possibility that the state will cut ties with the National Electricity Market, while continuing to export and import power over its sub-sea cable.

Tasmanian Premier, Will Hodgman, said the measure would be taken to ensure the mostly hydro-powered state was not exposed to future market fluctuations caused by power stations closures or system failures on the mainland.

“With Tasmania charging toward 100 per cent energy self-sufficiency … now is the time to take back our competitive advantage and break away from inflated mainland prices, and to drive down the cost of living of Tasmanians,” Hodgman said in February.

Tasmania, meanwhile, has been doing just fine coping on its own since the outage, has managed to deliver 24 hours of 100 per cent renewable electricity supply, and stopped using gas, as the chart in the tweet below illustrates.

According to electrical engineer and energy analyst at Advisian, Bruce Miller, this is not surprising. As he explained at the Wind Industry Forum in Melbourne earlier this month, “the frequency control of Tasmania, when it’s not connected to the mainland, is actually better than the mainland.”

When it is connected, he noted, “what you see is that Tasmania is actually providing a little bit of frequency control to the mainland, which is just the opposite to what was intended.”

But things didn’t run as smoothly as all that the last time the Basslink cable suffered an outage, over the summer of 2015/16. At that time, the state was plunged into an energy crisis when the outage coincided with damn levels at record low levels and other grid problems caused by bushfires.

To remedy this, 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.

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37 Comments
  1. Kevfromspace 2 years ago

    Since Basslink has gone down, It appears wind, solar and water have covered 90% of demand.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9febe3fbf07ff807c5049a5fb9a948b85afef94d123f48c3d3ae0ec45234e99b.png

    • Ren Stimpy 2 years ago

      It just goes to show they need far more wind power in our most windy state Tassie , to handle these ‘situations’ when their mainland interconnector is on the Fritz!

      • Kevfromspace 2 years ago

        Rooftop solar would help too!

        • Ren Stimpy 2 years ago

          Solar probably not quite cheap enough yet to take off in Tassie at that latitude. In a couple of years though, boom.

          • Kevfromspace 2 years ago

            Fair. Shame their government never set up a feed in tariff scheme like most other states to help the industry kick off.

          • Hans the Elder 2 years ago

            The distance to the equator in Tasmania is comparable to that of
            countries like Spain and Italy. But apparently it is quite cloudy in
            Tasmania, because the annual solar irradiation is more comparable to
            that of Southern to Middle Germany. Nevertheless, rooftop PV optimised
            for self usage, should be profitable.

            http://www.rjmcgregor.iinet.net.au/pdf/ASES_Solar_Atlas_Tasmania_Web.pdf

            http://kleine-energiewende.de/informationen/solarkarte/

            To
            convert from the Units on the Tasmanian map (average daily irradiation
            in MJ/m^2) to that on the German map (kWh per year) multiply with 101.

          • Ren Stimpy 2 years ago

            Well, perhaps add disposable income per capita to the equation? Can people in Tassie afford solar like people in gang-busters Germany can?

          • Hans the Elder 2 years ago

            Prices of PV systems have fallen quite hard the last few years. They
            should be profitable when the system is optimised for self-usage., i.e. a system where most of the production is used directly behind the meter and exports as little as possible to the grid. This can be achieved by building a relatively small system with a north-western array orientation so that peak production coincides with afternoon peak demand. When their cost come down a bit more you can also use batteries to increase the self-usage. This way most of your money is earned by avoiding buying electricity at high retail prices, and not from some low feed-in-tariff.

            Since such a system would be earning back the more than the original investment, the problem for low income families is more that of short-term cash flow. This could either be solved by taking on a loan for the system, with the current low interests rates this should not be such a big problem. Another solution is to start with a small system, and gradually expand. With micro-inverters you could even start with a one-panel PV system.

            Don’t look for problems, look for solutions!

    • Jon Albiez 2 years ago

      It’s helped that some places on the west coast have had 300mm of rain in the past fortnight. No need for gas when you’ve been given a windfall of free fuel.

  2. Joe 2 years ago

    Was the cable deliberately cut to boost the case for a 2nd connector……just wondering.

    • Charles 2 years ago

      I’d expect a comment like this on the Mercury or Examiner facebook pages… but not on RenewEconomy.

    • Ren Stimpy 2 years ago

      Conspiracy theories? Get real or you’re not much better than the morons who oppose this rational transition.

      • Joe 2 years ago

        I was being sarcastic but looks like it didn’t come across that way. Apologies.

        • rob 2 years ago

          never ever apologise to that wanker…..no matter what……Joe put him on the blocked list as I and many others have

          • Ren Stimpy 2 years ago

            You cocksucker!

            You don’t even know how you won the fucking lottery you fucking weak cock sucker.

          • Ren Stimpy 2 years ago

            I invited you to have a fair reaction – gloves and padding – but you declined you delicate thing.

            One winner would leave the ring and one loser is knocked out – i.e. you.

          • Ren Stimpy 2 years ago

            You cocksucker!

            You don’t even know how you won the fucking lottery you fucking moron cock sucker.

          • Joe 2 years ago

            Looks like he has disappeared… been deleted.

          • Ren Stimpy 2 years ago

            just smoothing the waters dude.

        • mick 2 years ago

          saw shark done it wink wink

    • Tom 2 years ago

      If the transmission infrastructure costs more than the generation infrastructure that it supports, then you have a problem.

  3. trackdaze 2 years ago

    They definetly need some redundancy.

    But instead of multi gazillion $ duplication years in the planning. they just need one 1/5th of the capacity tops. Maybe rolled out of the back of a 25ft bertram fishing charter on a slow fishing day… couple of 100amp fuses at each end….job done.

    • Ian 2 years ago

      Nah, a new race category starting Boxing Day.

  4. Patrick Comerford 2 years ago

    How come they don’t need to curtail RE generation and have the gas clunker running just in case. Isn’t that what AEMO have forced the SA grid to do.

    • Tom 2 years ago

      LOL!

    • Tom 2 years ago

      Just in case this was a serious question and not just a rhetorical tongue-in-cheek gag (which was actually very funny), or for readers who don’t understand the joke, it’s because hydro turbines are very heavy metal things rotating very fast.

      If a large supply load was suddenly lost from the system, or if a large demand load cut themselves from the system, then this “real spinning momentum” would help smooth the change in AC frequency of their grid.

      The majority of this frequency modulation effect only lasts about 1 or 2 seconds, but apparently this what the AEMO wants.

  5. Tom 2 years ago

    This isn’t quite as simple as both sides of the argument have stated.

    Of course if Basslink fails we’ll be alright for weeks to months (provided our reservoirs aren’t completely empty when Basslink fails) – and we could very well be 100% renewable in the process if we choose not to import methane to fire our small gas-fired generators.

    Tasmania never has a POWER problem – Tasmania only ever has an ENERGY problem.

    The problem is that Tasmania only produces about 80% of its energy needs – the rest is either imported methane to fire our gas turbines, or imported electricity through Basslink.

    In a wet year we could produce more than our annual energy requirement, and in a dry year we could need to import much more than 20% of our energy needs.

    If all of Tasmania’s hydro reservoirs were full we would store enough energy for our whole state for 15 months. With no rain, no wind, no sun, no imported methane, and no Basslink.

    Our energy security is absolutely correlated with how full our hydroelectric reservoirs are. Our current level is about 36%. This is better than 2 years ago, but still pretty pathetic. We could be doing much better.

    • Ian 2 years ago

      Wind farms on Tasmania are the obvious choice to extend the storage capacity of its dams, but for hydro Tasmania water conserved in the dams is not equal to money in the bank- why else would they run the dam levels so low?

      Love the mathematical problem Tasmania presents :1. A link that can fail 2. A hydro resource that does not quite cover its yearly
      demand. 3. A load demand with a wide variation between minimum and maximum4. A massive wind resource which is economically constrained by the load minimum and the small Basslink capacity.

      The solutions in broad terms are 1. Maintain a strategic dam level 2. Manage Tass local demand to constrain wind development less ie increase the minimum demand to better utilise wind when its available3. Strengthen the Basslink. 4. Install some short term storage like pumped hydro or batteries to shift excessive wind production to other times, thus freeing up the existing hydro resource to pursue export opportunities

      • Tom 2 years ago

        Tassie actually has quite a high minimum load compared with our average and maximum load. At this stage wind is not constrained by minimum load or by Basslink’s capacity, but (surprisingly) by capacity of existing on-island transmission infrastructure.

        If on-island transmission capacity was not as issue we could easily install 1000MW of wind power (compared with our current 300MW), or probably 800MW wind PLUS 800MW PV, whilst losing only a very small amount of the new energy produced due to existing demand constraints.

        Your final two paragraphs are far more applicable to the mainland than to Tasmania.

        • Ian 2 years ago

          Your point is taken. Total demand in Tasmania is 10.5TWh hydro produces about 8TWh, the Bass link is 500MW give or take if you allow basslink a export potential of say 60% or 0.5 x.6x24x365 = 2.6 GWh and wind farms a 40% capacity factor all you could install in wind is 10.5+2.6-8= 5.1 or 930MW. This close to your figure of 1000MW but is that all your ambition for Tasmania as a potential energy exporting state? It’s advantage is cheap, reliable electricity for power hungry industries and here is an opportunity to build plenty of wind capacity for direct export to the mainland and indirect export through industrial energy intense products.

          • Tom 2 years ago

            I agree with that we could easily produce another 2600GWh pa with TODAY’s demand profile, which is around 900MW of new wind (40% capacity factor is a bit optimistic).

            Remember we are 1600GWh pa deficient in our on-island energy production, and this is made up by importing electricity or methane to fire TVPS.

            This would leave 1000GWh pa as net Basslink exports (as opposed to the 800GWh pa of net imports at the moment). 1000GWh would be equal to full export 50% of the time, full import 25% of the time, and neither importing or exporting 25% of the time.

            As you said “Is that all your ambition for Tasmania?” No way! I think Tasmania should produce more energy, but use it on the island. Electricity is economy – why export our electricity to support Victoria’s economy? Why not use it to build our own economy?

            We have about 3000GWh pa of absolutely predictable new demand coming on line (compared with the approx 11,500GWh of current demand including distribution losses). This is in the form of electrification of our transport network. Once new electric vehicle sales hit 10%, they will very soon hit 90%, and we’d better be ready. Tassie is also the perfect place for electric trucks to establish as our maximum trip is about 400km.

            This needs to be encouraged – 4% of our gross state product is spent on imported fuel oil. Imagine if this was spent in our own economy instead?

            So that’s 5600GWh pa that we could quite reliably build without having to worry about any new transmission infrastructure – equal to 1000MW of new wind (3000GWh pa at CF 35%) and 1200MW of utility scale SAT PV (2600GWh pa at CF 25%)

            Sure, for a few hours a year when it is very sunny, very windy, and demand is low we will waste some energy. But energy is wasted every time a hydroelectric dam spills. It costs more to capture every last drop of energy than it does to capture 95% of it and accept some waste.

          • neroden 2 years ago

            Well… so few governmental leaders have any vision or plan. The move to solar & wind has been driven by private industry. What can you do to promote solar and wind on Tasmania that way?

          • Ian 2 years ago

            The energy problem in Tasmania is circuitous 😉 The key to unlocking Tasmania’s wind potential – and maximising hydro’s use is , as you say, electric vehicles. 4% of gross state product on imported fuel . Tasmania is the ideal test bed for an electric transport economy. It is part of Australia but has an almost independent island transport system. It’s travel distances are short, it’s fuel imports are expensive.

            They already have the ear of the prime minister with “the battery of the nation” notion. Why not exploit this too the full. They could get federal funding for EV trials. 1. V2G 2. Supercharger networks 3. EV subsidies .

            We know that initially heavily subsidising a technology like solar helped to get this established in Australia. The same sort of process could show manufacturers that we are “open for business”. Perhaps concentrating the nation’s efforts on one state like Tasmania will benefit the whole country in the longer run.

            They could use this unique environment to get motor vehicle manufacturers on board. We know that motor companies pay around $150/kWh for batteries yet their vehicles cost twice the equivalent ICE. Imagine the good will a company like Tesla could obtain by testing fleets of electric trucks in Tasmania. Not many trucks needed to create a huge impact.

  6. Ian 2 years ago

    Very embarrassing mistake: flat battery of the nation. Or tacit (Tass exit).

    What is the expensive part of the Bass link? The cable or the connecting parts on either end? You’d think some redundancy of switchgear would be the way to go for this critical link.

    When large interconnectors are installed across the nation to smooth out the effects of variable wind generation, we can’t have them fail because some dumb-arse contractor busts a bespoke switch.

  7. neroden 2 years ago

    “dam levels”, not “damn levels” 🙂

  8. Paul Surguy 2 years ago

    I did notice on the AEMO data dashboard thing in Tassie were going no where, now I know why

  9. RobertO 2 years ago

    Hi All, New date is now 31 May 2018 as return to service.

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