For the last year everyone has been calling Tasmania the “Battery of the Nation” — Turnbull, Hydro Tasmania, government departments, the ever hopeful green press. It’s an official plan. The bright idea is to add “Pumped Hydro Storage” to the large dams already on the island state, boosting the only reliable renewable type of energy. But right now, as far as mainland Australia goes, Tassie is a No-Volt Battery.
The dirty secret is just how fragile the link is. Not only did it break for six spectacular months in 2016 — leaving the “green” state flying in squads of diesels — but its now quietly out of action again and it’s projected to be out for two months all up. The 290 km undersea cable known as Basslink is the second longest of its type in the world. It broke on 24 March 2018. It is not expected back in action til May 31. It was an accident of routine maintenance at one end.
“The equipment was damaged by a third-party contractor during routine works. There is no damage to the cable itself.”
It’s a glorious title, but the Battery of the Nation is apparently just an “initiative” to “investigate and develop a pathway”. So it’s a $2.5m thought bubble about a plan to make a path. This was announced in April last year by the PM and Tas State Premier.
It’s … a web page:
““Tasmania is uniquely placed to help lead Australia through its challenging transition towards cleaner sources of energy. Battery of the Nation offers a future that’s clean, reliable and affordable.”
– Steve Davy, Hydro Tasmania CEO”
Which is all true apparently, except it’s not so clean nor reliable and costs billions. But apart from that….
Back on March 1, 2018: the Australian Fin Review was lauding it: “Hydro Tasmania’s 5 GW ‘Battery of the Nation’ dwarfs Snowy 2.0“. Three weeks later the cable was inoperable again. Where are the headlines now?
The Tasmanian government-owned hydro electricity monopoly will unveil a report next month saying preliminary studies have identified 4000 megawatts to 5000 MW of potential pumped hydro storage sites across more than a dozen sites that can be delivered at a cost of $1 million to $1.5 million per MW.
And where is the report that was due in April? There’s no press release yet. I guess no one wants to mention the Battery of the Nation while it is effectively dead — including the lefty-lobbying-media. If a coal plant was out of action for two months, there would be a headline every week in the Fairfax press. The Australians for Big Government (ABC) mentioned the disconnect on March 28th, and played it down a few weeks later as the fault problem was extended — “it’s no threat to power security”. Of course, if the dams were empty, it would be.
The Tasmanian Labor opposition policy is now aiming for a 120% renewable target. If the cable breaks again, perhaps they can post those extra electrons in shoe boxes.
“We’ve seen what South Australia has done, Tasmania could have been been leading the charge here,” Ms White said.
What about a second interconnector?
A second interconnector across the Bass Strait would cost $1 billion dollars and is considered unlikely to ever go ahead. But the AEMO wants it now, and Infrastructure Australia is thinking about it with a $20m study.
“The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) has handed down a report calling for a second Tasmania-Victoria interconnector from 2025 …
A second Bass Strait cable had the lowest “cost to benefit” ratio of the other options recommended in the report.
The AEMO found the cable’s overall net benefit over 20 years would be $143 million when combined with augmented interconnector capacity linking to New South Wales.”
Still cleaning up after the last debacle
In 2016, Hydro Tasmania had run their dams too low out of greed — collecting carbon credits by exporting renewable hydro power to Victoria –even as an El Nino was forecast which meant dry conditions were coming. Things reached high farce when Hydro Tas attempted the world first of generating electricity by the not-so-renewable option of cloud seeding. The icing on the Farce-Cake was that they tried this in the face of a major storm front that caused flooding rain.
Basslink and Hydro Tasmania are still fighting it out in court over who’s to blame for the last breakage.
h/ts Robert Rossicka, Yarpos, Ian 1946, Chad, Peter C, Pat, Rickwill, AndrewWA