Tasmania touts its “Battery of the Nation” – half the cost of Snowy 2.0

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Tasmania’s pumped hydro potential of 4800MW from just 14 “high potential” sites, at half the cost of Snowy 2.0 – and renewable.

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Tasmania’s bid to be the “battery of the nation” has gained new momentum this week, with fresh estimates that Australia’s island state could provide just under 5GW of storage capacity from just over a dozen of its best pumped hydro sites.

HydroTasmania said on Wednesday that 14 “high potential” pumped hydro sites had been narrowed down from a shortlist of 30 that resulted from an assessment of around 2,000 sites in the state – a project backed by an ARENA grant of $2.5 million. (See table below – a bigger, more detailed table is included at the end of the story.)

Those 14 sites, located around eight existing reservoirs across Tasmania’s central highlands, north and west coasts, represented a combined capacity of up to 4,800MW of storage capacity, HydroTas and ARENA said in jointly released statements.

That impressive capacity, at nearly twice the amount the feasibility study had expected to find back in September, bodes well for Tasmania’s bid to become the Battery of the Nation – providing flexible, dispatchable energy when needed, both in the state and on the mainland.

It is also drawing inevitable comparisons with the federal government’s pet renewables project, Snowy 2.0, which will deliver less than half the capacity and has been estimated to cost up to $4.5 billion, or $2.25 million per MW.

By contrast ARENA says Tasmania’s pumped hydro capacity, which is expected to be refined down further by HydroTas to a total of 2500MW of high potential sites, has an estimated total capital cost of $1.1 – $2.34 million per MW.

According to Hydro Tasmania, most of the sites have an estimated cost of between $1.05 million and $1.5 million per MW to build.

“Two things are now official: Battery of the Nation stacks up very well; and we can deliver it,” said Hydro Tasmania CEO Steve Davy in comments on Wednesday.

“Battery of the Nation is about locking in our island’s energy security and giving Tasmanians the lowest possible power prices. It offers a future that’s clean, reliable and affordable.

“Doubling Tasmania’s clean energy would also create a surplus, beyond our own needs, to support mainland Australia. That’s crucial to replace the coal power that’s being phased out,” Davy said.

But the report also notes that fully unlocking Tasmania’s pumped hydro potential will need “additional interconnection” with mainland Australia, beyond the existing Basslink cable, which returned to service this week after a 10-week outage.

HydroTasmania said that TasNetworks was currently assessing the business case for a second interconnector with the support of ARENA.

“As Australia’s renewable energy make-up continues to grow, energy storage will be increasingly necessary, which is why this project is so important,” said ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht.

“Tasmania has been identified as the Battery of the Nation for a reason, as it has some of the best wind resources and existing hydro-electric power.

“Unlocking most of these opportunities requires additional interconnection, which is why ARENA is also working with TasNetworks to assess the feasibility of a second interconnector,” he said.

Hydro Tasmania says it will now investigate the 14 options in detail, and narrow them down to a smaller number of sites, equivalent to about 2500MW of pumped hydro potential.

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30 Comments
  1. RobertO 4 months ago

    Hi All, I wonder if we will get a 800 kV HVDC system at 2 or more GW capacity. Most people think that electricity is all about price and the costs of building this system is not worth it, forgetting that security and community have a part to play in the price. If something is going to be built, I would prefer that it has a stop over on King Island simply on community grounds.

    • Peter F 4 months ago

      It really doesn’t matter what the voltage is. It is simply a question of cost. 800 kV works if transmission distances is thousands of km because of the saving in conductors. On a short link like this it is doubtful that any more than 400 kV is justified

      • RobertO 4 months ago

        Hi Peter F, This area is an evolving design / mechanical issue with changing costs. What to stop Hydro Tas spending the money via the business case (that we will never see, Hydro Tas are going to make a profit) to make the link go to NSW, with take off points along the way.
        One thing that the Siemans Doc on HVDC did say is that there have been 100 GW done in the last 40 years and they expect to do 2500 GW in the next 10 years (said in July 2012). Companies are making decisions based on what profit they believe they can make and Gov entities are doing the same with deeper pockets (tax payers) and there are cases of short HVDC system being built (higher voltage = lower line losses).

        • Peter F 4 months ago

          I agree the technology is getting better, particularly at converter stations, however as you can see from my reply to Ian above. a pumped hydro system in Tasmania is a very poor way of supporting Victorian demand let alone SA or NSW.
          While I don’t really have much objection to pumped hydro, I suspect the need for storage is vastly overstated because if you look at Anero.id and then allow for wide dispersion of low wind type wind turbines, tracking solar and flexible demand storage needs will be much less than current projections. Most of the remaining storage will be at generators for arbitrage and to minimise curtailment due to grid congestion, at customers to reduce capacity and peak demand charges and to store behind the meter generation and occasionally at grid nodes to minimise grid investment. Pumped hydro in Tasmania or even Snowy II meet none of these needs.

          • RobertO 4 months ago

            Hi Peter F, I suspect that you and I will never see the business case and how it was put together. Profit will drive any decisions made (and I suspect that not all the PH in this list will make it).
            I suspect also that more wind will be built in Tas as any part of a planned interconnect to the main land if they can convince the Fed Gov / State Gov and / or the the regulators. Power will alway be used locally unless profit can cover the transmission losses, or local shortages (and it will still be profit driven). I do not believe that a generator in Vic or NSW will be used to supply Tas PH systems unless they can make profit on doing it (and efficiency has little to do with it i.e. something can be 99.9% efficient and not making a profit so it will not get going. Something can be only 0.5 % efficient making a profit and it will make it). Overall I do expect that we will see more peaking hydro, some PHES installed, a lot more wind and some solar and an interconnector installed (but it will all be about profit, not efficiency).

          • Peter F 4 months ago

            You are almost certainly right about both the business case and more wind, my guess is about 800 MW of wind could be installed around the existing Tasmanian grid and turn them into a) zero imports and b) net exports of around 25-30% of generation without new Basslink. The question is whether they can make money on the exports. Expanding consumption in Tasmania with new industry is probably a better idea

          • Mike Westerman 4 months ago

            Peter – as a hydro engineer, I would readily endorse your conclusions. A very significant slice of demand would be best be stored as thermal rather than electrical (or chemical) energy and we really haven’t even seen the beginning of a change in this space – you could count the number of ice storage, chilled and hot water storage, geothermal storage and flash steam storage systems in Australia on the fingers of one hand – even tho’ the uses these cheaper forms of storage could support make up 20-30% of commercial demand.

  2. George Michaelson 4 months ago

    Whats the cost per MW to build.. if the cost of the interconnector across Bass Straight is factored in?

    No good quoting it into the NEG, if the cost of connecting it to the NEG isn’t included.

    • RobertO 4 months ago

      Hi George Michaelson, If any of this PHES goes ahead then, the PH will be a reliable source of so called “Baseload” so they will be able to change (Snowy 2 may have factored in a price of $40 per MWHr) wind and solar for the reliability factor. PH is a money maker under the NEG (if it gets up, and I hope it gets canned as it add to RE costs)

  3. Joe 4 months ago

    Big Will’s Big Battery is bigger than Big Mals’ Big Battery…..its like a Trump vs Kim Big Button contest.

  4. juxx0r 4 months ago

    Fiddling whilst Rome burns again. Gotta love Hydro Tas’s ability to find the shittest option and go with it.

    Can’t wait to see their cost benefit analysis of letting rain fill the dams Vs pumping it in there.

    Just pull their finger out and put in more renewable and let the dams fill and there’s more potential energy from every drop even if you only use the same amount.

  5. Chris Andersen 4 months ago

    Why not use the energy to produce hydrogen which has now become a valuable article of commerce?

    • juxx0r 4 months ago

      Thank you, Hydro Tas has got a reprieve from me, this is an even shitter option than pump up hydro without a need.

  6. Mark Roberts 4 months ago

    I can’t help but think that these grandiose schemes are just designed to be a political play thing. Snowy 2.0 and now ‘battery of the nation’. I really think the future lies is more distributed storage and generation as it can localise the generation and storage, reduce transmission losses and improve resilience to network failures. Only problem as far as I can see is that these small scale distributed solutions just aren’t sexy enough for our politicians.

    • JIm 4 months ago

      I’m sure it hasn’t escaped the PM that Eden-Monaro (Snowy 2.0) is a marginal electorate (held by ALP), and the Coalition would like more Tassie seats. On the other hand, plenty of solar is proposed and being built in National Party strongholds.

  7. Roger M 4 months ago

    4.8 Gigawatts!
    Considering there is no benefit for Tas of pumped hydro unless there is (1) more solar/wind than current demand – ie about 8 times more than now or (2) very cheap imports from Victoria via Basslink (say 600 MW) and if built Basslink 2 (1GW?) there will be no viable pumped hydro more than 1.6GW. Maximum current generation just over 2GW.

    Given the transmission losses and round trip losses on pumping Tas would need very big price differentials to justify Basslink2 + pumped hydro.

    • Roger M 4 months ago

      Actually, as minimum demand is 1 GW, even 1.6 GW of imports from Victoria could only sensibly use a maximum pumped hydro of 600MW + whatever wind/solar generation there is in tas + whatever the minimum river flow levels are (not much).

  8. Peter F 4 months ago

    Seems that most commentators below are of the view that this, like Snowy II, is rubbish. They are almost certainly right. On average Tasmania has been a net importer of power since Basslink opened therefore to make this the battery of the nation they will have to import 25-35% more power than they export from this project.

    Combined with two way power losses it could be up to 40% more. Surely it would be better for Tasmania to invest in more wind and solar to become a net exporter using the existing transmission links.
    Back of the envelope calculation 2.5 GW of pumped hydro + 1 GW new transmission $5 bn. + strengthened Victoria/SA and Victoria/NSW links say $6b round figures. Annual maintenance and operation $300 m. Capital and interest over 40 years about $500 m/y
    Supplying an average of 4,000 MWh per day back to the NEM. (a very high CF for pumped hydro) and buying power at $50, the system will have breakeven power price of $550-700/MWh. Wind + batteries in Victoria will have a breakeven price of $80-90/MWh and solar + batteries probably a bit less. Even using excess Victorian wind and solar to generate hydrogen and feed it into fuel cells would probably cost less than this idea.
    The simplest idea is for Tasmania to generate an extra 1,000 GWh for own consumption and an extra 300 MW 24/7 so it can run basslink at 70% capacity factor as an export only facility. That would require about 700 MW of wind and 200MW of new solar, including the plants currently under construction, little or no investment in transmission and they could supply power landed in Victoria 24/7 for about $65/MWh with an investment $1.2bn. Sounds a lot better that $6bn

    • Ian 4 months ago

      The losses through a HVDC cable are not high: about 5% see this page:

      https://www.siemens.com/press/pool/de/events/2012/energy/2012-07-wismar/factsheet-hvdc-e.pdf

      There would not be a great deal of difference between the losses experienced in storing electricity through pumped hydro in Victoria or in Tasmania or just about anywhere else for that matter.

      Of course , the rest of what you say makes a lot of sense.

      The idea of having baseload-emulating generators and storage capacity enough to last days or weeks is very expensive, whichever way you look at it.

      Electricity is like manna from heaven, only good for the day it’s given, no more no less.

      • RobertO 4 months ago

        Hi Ian, I was reading an ABB document a few years ago and it was claiming that HVDC was going up in Voltage, and up in life expectancy (suggested 60 years +). It also suggested that ABB should be aiming at 1% losses per 1000 km (pro rata) with their new designs. The Sieman’s doc is date 2012 and there has been some advances since then.

      • Peter F 4 months ago

        The losses in transmission are both ways and on short links most of the losses are in the converter stations. the 1%/1000km posted below is just for the lines. So, if the total loss is say 4 % and the AC links at each end another 4 %, hydro system is 70% round trip you get 100 MW at Victorian generator 96 at Vic terminal 92 at Tassie Terminal. 88.5 at pump x 0.7=62 at generator = 59 at Tassie Terminal = 57 at Victorian Terminal = 55 at Latrobe Valley Distribution yard

      • Peter F 4 months ago

        Re capacity factor. The line can’t export while it is importing and if imports are being used to recharge pumped hydro they will be larger than exports by about 1.4 to 1 then max theoretical sales time is 1/2.4 or 40%. Then, at times when prices are similar in both states little trade will occur so it is very hard to see Tassie exporting more than 1/3rd of the time until it becomes a significant net exporter.

        Minimum summer demand in Tasmania is about 800 MW. If Tasmania had 1,000 MW of wind averaging 46% Capacity Factor and peak output of 90% combined with minimum hydro and solar, there would probably would only be a few hours a year where minimum generation was more than 1,200 MW local demand + exports on the existing link. 800 MW of wind would allow it to export about an average of about 220-250 MW 24/7. It would not need any investment in new transmission and would not spend any money on imports from Victoria

    • Malcolm M 4 months ago

      The study team have so far only looked at arbitrage opportunities rather than what pumped storage can enhance the current system. My favourite is to use Lake Echo as the upper storage and Lake Dee as the lower storage, a head of 178m. This would be combined with a low head pump to lift spring flows about 10m up from Bradys Lake into Lake Dee, from where they could be lifted up to Lake Echo for longer term storage. The Derwent hydro system suffers from lack of headwater storage, particularly on the Tungatinah arm, resulting in the Derwent power stations are having to run as low-priced base load stations during spring to avoid spills, rather than high-priced peak stations. However the Lake Echo is a huge storage on a little river, and most of the flow joins below Lake Echo. By using its storage more effectively, there would not only be a pumped hydro of ~400 MW, but also much more effective use of other stations on the Derwent system.

      Beyond ~400 MW of pumped storage there is probably little market for further capacity in Tasmania, so perhaps $600m. Any further pumped storage would be better located on the mainland. The Tasmanian off-peak market of ~1GW could be supplied by ~1GW of local wind and receive night-time imports of 400 MW for pumping on nights with cheap Victorian wind via the current Basslink.

      • Ian 4 months ago

        This is a fascinating topic, Malcolm, your point is interesting. . Pumped hydro per se, is costly from an efficiency point of view: 70 to 80% efficient, not including transmission losses, but if you can use cheap electricity to shift this springtime excess from small dams with big catchments to a bigger storage dam with a smaller catchment and sell the electricity at will and at better prices that has got to be worthwhile.

        This is a nuance on the pumped storage idea that is not so obvious.

        With plenty of Tasmanian wind capacity, robust Bass links, easy access to Victoria’s market and renewables resources, this smart use of pumped storage and demand management you could create a very reliable and hopefully cheap Grid system. Funnily enough, each component would be able to optimise its own function to benefit itself. Your pumped hydro would optimise it’s use of water, the wind farms would benefit from reduced curtailment, the interconnectors would be more fully utilised, demand management may benefit from more stable wholesale prices etc etc.

        • RobertO 4 months ago

          Hi Ian, I love your first statement about the idea of small dams and large catchments and large dams with small catchments. Lots of people miss the point that rivers can be a constant supply to reduce the amount of PH need to top up the dam (oversized dam for that size river system where massive rain fall systems will not cause issues unless it a 1 in 1000 flood and even then they are predictable)

    • Chris Baker 4 months ago

      I think your simplest idea is best. Until they are using the interconnector almost exclusively as an exporter there’s a very poor case for another interconnector. Thinking of the value for Tassie, surely its in exporting power generated locally. Say your suggested 300MW at an average price somewhere north of $100/MWh at Vic prices is $720,000 per day, or $262m per year. Because basslink is more or less balanced for import and export, I guess it may be a net zero $ flow as well. Running it as an export facility would mean that entire $262m is added to Tassie economy each year. They just need to get on with adding more wind and solar. With a relatively modest 400MW of PH as Malcolm M suggests, that would ensure no curtailment of wind and/or run of river when demand is low.

    • PLDD 4 months ago

      “Surely it would be better for Tasmania to invest in more wind and solar to become a net exporter using the existing transmission links.”

      I thought I read that Labor had announced Braddon as a site for a renewable hub with a couple of big wind farms, and that Frydenberg had/is announcing a very similar thing…..both competing for the marginal seat.

      There seems to be a bit of a shift in Coalition positioning on renewable energy at a Federal level. I think the Liberal States were the first to get the message that voters are behind renewables and are frustrated at the political nonsense. That has filtered up to the Feds who are repositioning for example Littleprouds recent statement after his trip with Turnbull which is pro renewables.

      OK their transition to this new stance is justified by saying its “the economics that will drive it” but as that has always been the case that’s just window dressing to hide the about face.

  9. Ian 4 months ago

    What to make of this “battery of the Nation” idea. Tasmania is constrained by the capacity of its interconnector/s . The current Basslink is a 500MW line . To supply a battery duty for at least the Victorian part of the nation of the stated 2. 5GW you would need a Bass strait interconnector of 5x the existing one. How much would that cost to build?

    A study in 2017: https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/pages/014e6ca4-f681-4ea5-a671-3301dde84217/files/final-report-feasibility-second-tasmanian-interconnector.pdf

    This study was for a 2IC of 600MW at $1.1 billion . Ie $1.8 million per MW, that’s as much as the cost of the actual pumped hydro upgrades. You could say the combined cost of this Storage facility for Victoria ( and thus the rest of the East coast mainland) is about $4million/MW. The other problem is that you are not going to push 2.5GW through this link plus the old Basslink. You would actually need another 2GW @$1.8 million/MW = $3.6 billion.

    • Ian 4 months ago

      Just as an aside to the above, if Tasmania is able to export its renewables generated electricity from once through hydro and wind at a Basslink usage factor of 70%, then there would be a potential further 30% availability to import electricity to Tasmania. Unlike other centres for renewables generation inland to the various cities around the East Coast, Tasmania has a reasonably sized electricity load of its own, when or if Victoria’s wholesale prices are low, then Tasmania could import this electricity for its own use and save its hydro resources for a better price point.

  10. Roger M 4 months ago

    Hydro Tas report only seems to consider pumped hydro once there are at least 3 interconnectors to Victoria and 2GW of wind power in Tas. All scenarios looking at 2040 as when full capacity is reached.

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