UPC announces plan for 1,000MW wind farms in Tasmania | RenewEconomy

UPC announces plan for 1,000MW wind farms in Tasmania

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UPC and Hammond family announce plans for 1,000MW wind farm in Tasmania, and solar and storage.

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UPC Renewables and the Hammond family on Friday unveiled plans for two huge wind farms totalling up to 1,000MW in the north-west corner of Tasmania.

UPC said it had signed a deal with the  Hammond Family, owners of Robbins Island and other lands near Smithton on the north west coast of Tasmania, to develop wind farms on Robbins Island and at nearby Jims Plain, totalling between 600MW and 1,000MW.

Solar and non hydro storage options will also be considered.

“The Robbins Island project itself is a very large isolated site and, together with Jims Plain, have some of the best proven wind resources in the world,” CEO Anton Rohner said in a statement.

Rohner said it was being built with an eye to the plan announced by prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Tasmania government to turn the state into a “renewable energy battery” for the country. That plan depends on a new line being built to the mainland.

“The Robbins Island and Jims Plain projects, together with Tasmania’s hydro assets and other new renewable energy projects, will assist in making a second interconnector a dispatchable and significant renewable energy generator into the National Electricity Market,” he said.

“The technology to be deployed at the site will be mostly wind energy but the option of additional solar and other non-hydro based energy storage technologies is also contemplated.”

A wind farm on Robbins Island was first discussed  almost 16-years-ago, but has not moved forward because of the lack of a viable transmission solution. It says a study into the feasibility of connecting directly to the Victorian grid from Robbins Island has also been initiated.

“With the changes in the energy market and potential viable transmission solutions available this projects is set to proceed; Robbins Island and Jims Plain could accommodate approximately 600MW to 1,000MW of wind energy generation capacity between them.”

He suggested the $1.6 billion project could be ready for investment by early 2019, although the smaller Jims Plan project is expected to be investment ready by mid-2018.

UPC Australia has appointed former Clean Energy Finance Corp chief Oliver Yates to the board.

“This project has the scale and wind resource to become a major contributor to the energy supply challenges we face,” he said. “Operating more than 90 per cent of the time once linked to Victoria, it is highly complementary to the National Electricity Market.”

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10 Comments
  1. Just_Chris 3 years ago

    Fantastic

  2. Peter F 3 years ago

    On the one hand this is very exciting, on the other it harks back to the days of mega power stations and mega transmission infrastructure.

    Melbourne can have all the wind it needs within 300km of the city built along the existing transmission grids.

    Clearly the different wind patterns and high capacity factor of this plant will mean that far less backup is needed in Victoria but will that offset the extra construction costs and the cost of building and operating the DC link

  3. Tom 3 years ago

    Sounds great, but it’s not going to happen.

    Firstly, the second interconnector will never happen – there is just no economic sense in it – not by a factor of 10.

    Secondly, even if the second interconnector did happen, how would UPC sell their energy? Will they make a PPA with Aurora? If I was CEO of Aurora I wouldn’t be too keen to commit to a PPA with 1000MW of wind generation capacity in one hit – not unless it was for a very favourable (low) price.

    Even if there was a second interconnector, when the wind is blowing hard in Tassie it is often blowing hard in Victoria, and all the wind farms in both states are generating lots, bringing the wholesale price of energy down. Therefore if Tassie is making forced sales to Victoria (which is the implication of “requiring a second interconnector”), then the sales might be at $20/MWh, so if the PPA was for $60/MWh then Aurora will still be losing (subsidising) $40/MWh.

    Or would UPC not enter into a PPA and just sell on the spot market? Same issues, but a private company rather than our government bearing the risk. Maybe (with a second interconnector) selling onto the spot market is worth it. I don’t know.

    It sounds to me like a few rich folk making idle promises to try to con the federal government into pork-barrelling a billion dollars into Tasmanian infrastructure.

    • George Darroch 3 years ago

      Unfortunately I think you’re right. This is a concept, not a proposal.

    • Brian Tehan 3 years ago

      I think that it’s better than you think. Firstly Tasmania has large hydro resources, so wind power from Tasmania doesn’t have to be despatched in real time, in synch with Victoria’s. It can be used to conserve hydro potential for a time of higher prices or they could build some small pumped hydro. Secondly, Tasmania, as the article says, has some of the world’s best wind resources, meaning very high utilisation and low power costs. In the near future, the most energy intensive industries will have to be sited near the cheapest and most abundant renewable energy sources. Tasmania could be a mini energy superpower, producing, for example, aluminium and, perhaps, hydrogen, which will be needed for steel production and some transport. I know it already has an aluminium plant but it could have another.

      • Tom 3 years ago

        Everything you say is true in concept, but when you look closer there are a few issues.

        Firstly – the “pumped hydro” issue. I’ve got a challenge for you: Where EXACTLY would you put “pumped hydro” in Tassie? I know where I’d put it, and there is no perfect site (which doesn’t mean it’s impossible, it just means that every potential site is a compromise of some sort).

        Secondly – the other things you’ve said are true, “some of the world’s best wind resources”, “can be used to conserve hydro potential”, but the crux of the article was that this massive project could only go ahead if there was a second Basslink, which is a separate issue to the things stated above.

        Tassie’s wind farms have an annual capacity factor of around 40%, whereas the mainland ones have a capacity factor between the low 30s and high 30s – not a huge difference, and the advantage would be lost once transmission losses are taken into account.

    • Bill V 3 years ago

      This will never work.
      The last thing this country needs is an abundance of energy with negligible emissions and marginal cost.
      How can incumbents with 50+ year old plant and business models compete against new players with this advantage?
      All that is needed is for those who say it can’t be done to get out if the way of those who are doing it.

      • Tom 3 years ago

        I’m not saying that extra renewable capacity is a bad idea – I’m saying that spending $1 billion on a second Basslink is a bad idea, and that a great big promise like this with a second Basslink as a precondition is a promise which will never be realised. Partly because a second Basslink won’t actually provide all that much advantage to the economic model of this proposed wind farm.

        The best renewable technology for energy expansion in Tassie is actually some sort of axis-tracking PV. Probably horizontal single-axis tracking (like the Morree solar power station).

        Why would I say this when single axis tracking PV would have a capacity factor of 25% when wind has a capacity factor of 40%?

        Firstly, the time of year that the power is produced is important. Axis-tracking PV during the 15 hour days of our summer months would have a capacity factor of around 50% (and wind’s capacity factor in these months is in the low 30s), and this is when the dam levels can be most effectively preserved. During winter-spring, when wind’s capacity factor is at its highest, it is also most likely that the small hydro dams are all spilling, producing plentiful power, and the large storages are being preserved anyway because of this.

        Secondly, I can identify 4 sites where a total of 750MW of pumped hydro could be installed very cheaply (750MW pumped up, 500MW when let down) – with existing dams in very close proximity to each other, existing (or minimally upgraded) transmission infrastructure, and all that would need to be added is a pump and a pipe. The catch is that during winter/spring, the uphill storage would often be spilling (ie, there is no point pumping), hence these would also work much better in capturing excess PV energy than excess wind energy.

        Thirdly, PV is simpler and can be installed in a more modular way. I would suggest that the Tassie government itself could buy farmland and build PV power stations much more cheaply than entering into a PPA for a private company to build them. Why? The PPA needs to cover the private company’s interest bill, risk, and provide a reasonable return on capital, as well as uncertainty about what happens to the asset once the PPA expires. Why doesn’t the government cut out the middle man and collect the ROC itself?

        I can see the government running into problems if it built and maintained its own wind farms – they are much more complex and when things go wrong the government may not have the expertise to manage them.

        It all comes down to dollars and sense though – if wind can produce twice as much energy for the same capital outlay as horizontal single axis tracking PV, then it is still worth wasting some of the wind energy that can’t be captured rather than using PV instead.

  4. George Darroch 3 years ago

    If Australia had integrated energy planning, then this would be built. It allows Tasmania’s hydro assets to function as batteries for the mainland.

    However we have a market system in which it makes sense to act in competition, not in concert.

    • riley222 3 years ago

      Precisely why China is all over the west at the moment. Us Occidentals need to evolve a bit otherwise we’re not going to exist shortly.

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