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Tasmanian interconnector project sets sail

They call them the roaring forties, a fearsome system of westerly winds that propelled the merchants and explorers of the sail age on journeys into a vast unknown.

And they could one day be the powerful but invisible force helping propel Australia into a renewable energy future.

But to harness the power of those winds, and the considerable potential for new pumped hydro energy storage schemes to allow Tasmania to act as a “battery of the nation”, further interconnection is needed to deliver electricity in both directions between the island state and the mainland.

Late last year, the Australian and Tasmanian Governments announced their intention to jointly fund a $20 million feasibility and business case assessment for a second interconnector.

With up to $10 million of funding from ARENA, TasNetworks is working on the most detailed analysis ever undertaken as to how a second Bass Strait interconnector could be designed and built.

The feasibility and business case assessment will build on previous less detailed studies and answer questions that must be addressed before a decision to build the interconnector is made, including the preferred capacity, best route and location.

TasNetworks has named the study Project Marinus – from the Latin word meaning ‘of the sea’, reflecting the marine connection between Tasmania and Victoria. This month, they will hold a number of public forums in both Victoria and Tasmania on the proposed interconnector.

Low Head Lighthouse onTasmania’s rugged north coast

 

These public forums follow the release of the first consultation paper, which identified a link of 600MW to 1,200MW as being roughly the ideal size for a second interconnector to enable new renewable energy zones.

In the consultation paper, the 600MW connection is projected to cost between $1.4-1.9 billion, while the 1200MW alternative is estimated to cost $1.9-2.7 billion.

Tasnetworks is looking at several routes for an undersea cable to pass beneath Bass Strait, where it can connect to strong parts of the Tasmanian and Victorian electricity networks.

The report predicts a second Bass Strait interconnector will improve energy reliability and security across the national energy market, particularly in Victoria and Tasmania.

Expected costs and timelines for the project are being examined, as well as the additional infrastructure required to integrate the Marinus Link into Tasmania and Victoria. Project Marinus will also look at environmental and planning considerations, as well as best models for the link’s construction, ownership and operation.

A new interconnector, should it be given the go-ahead, would be a key to unlocking the island state’s potential to act as “battery of a nation” and also be one of the largest infrastructure projects ever undertaken in the state.

A MIGHTY WIND

Tasmania already has significant hydro capacity and a growing number of wind farms, particularly in the state’s rugged North-West, where some of the best wind resources in the world blow strong and regularly.

Musselroe Wind Farm in North-East Tasmania

Four new wind farms are being planned or constructed, including Cattle Hill in Central Tasmania, which will produce enough electricity to power 63,500 homes when it opens in late 2019.

But there is significant potential to build more wind farms over time and to use the energy they generate to meet the needs of other Australian states. A 1000MW wind farm is already in the pipeline for remote Robbins Island on Tasmania’s north west coast, if a second interconnector goes ahead.

Since Tasmanian wind farms rely on different weather systems than those in South Australia and Victoria, they can supply electricity at different times.

This electricity would be a valuable and complementary addition to the NEM, helping to smooth the variability that accompanies wind energy at present.

A PUMPED HYDRO FUTURE?

ARENA has already announced funding of up to $5 million for Hydro Tasmania to undertake feasibility studies as part of the Battery of the Nation initiatives. This work includes upgrading existing hydro power stations, identifying 14 high potential sites for pumped hydro and examining how wind power and hydro could help provide dispatchable, reliable power to other states.

As renewable energy grows to comprise a larger percentage of the nation’s electricity the importance of storage for ensuring grid security and reliability also increases. The Battery of the Nation is, partly, an attempt to provide for those future needs.

Here’s how it would work: Future pumped hydro projects in Tasmania could receive renewable energy from the national market when it is in plentiful supply to pump water uphill to be stored in reservoirs.

When generation drops or demand surges in other parts of Australia, water would be released to run downhill, through turbines, generating hydroelectricity that could either supply the local market or be sent back to mainland Australia via the Marinus Link.

Tarraleah hydro power station

BACKUP FOR TASMANIA AND VICTORIA

A second Bass Strait interconnector would help to manage the risks associated with relying on a single interconnector, providing backup for Tasmania and Victoria in the event of a local shortfall or disruption to existing supply.

Such a disruption occurred in 2015-16 when an extended outage of Basslink, combined with low hydro water storage levels, put pressure on Tasmanian energy reserves for an extended period. New storage level controls were put in place, but could be relaxed with greater interconnection, delivering greater benefits to customers.

With Tasmania’s energy demand highest in winter, and the rest of the national market highest in summer, the existing Basslink interconnector supports Victoria as demand rises on the hottest days. A second link would allow these transfers to continue in the event that either interconnector is out of service.

HAVEN’T WE LOOKED AT THIS ALREADY?

A second interconnector has long been thought about but has become a more pressing concern as the security of the national market is thrown into focus, and the importance of energy storage in providing that security becomes clear.

A preliminary report in June 2016 found that, if viable, a second interconnector would support long term energy security in Tasmania and integration of Tasmanian renewable energy into the NEM.

A second report, in April last year, from former Australian Energy Market Commission Chair John Tamblyn, found that the project was economically viable in some future scenarios but not in others. The report recommends that the case for the second interconnector should be revisited if a number of scenarios emerge.

SO WHAT HAS CHANGED?

Many of the scenarios identified by Tamblyn are now coming to fruition:

  • Early work on the Battery of the Nation project has produced modelling that is more encouraging of a second interconnector, highlighting Tasmania’s potential to deliver benefits across the national market. Early work shows the benefits from a second interconnector could outweigh the costs by $500 million.
  • The Australian Energy Market Operator’s July 2018 Integrated System Plan identified a future need for more dispatchable renewables and stronger interconnection. The ISP also recognised the the potential benefits to the national energy market from the Marinus link.
  • Early-stage preparations for a second interconnector between South Australia and the eastern states are now underway, led by Electranet. The Tamblyn report found this would be vital to making the economic case for a second Bass Strait interconnect stack up.

WHERE TO FROM HERE?

TasNetworks will provide an interim report on the feasibility of a second Bass Strait interconnector by the end of 2018, while the full feasibility and business case assessment for Project Marinus is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.

Results in from Hornsdale Wind Farm FCAS trial

ARENA recently partnered with the Australian Energy Market Operator, NEOEN, and Siemens-Gamesa Australia to explore whether wind farms can perform system stability services for the electricity market.

The Australian-first trial tested whether the Hornsdale Wind Farm 2 could be remotely controlled to deliver Frequency Control Ancillary Services, and the initial results are promising (FCAS help keep the power system in tune at a stable frequency).

Turbines at the Hornsdale Wind Farm. Photo: Siemens

Trialled over the peak 2017-18 summer period, the wind farm delivered across six of the eight different FCAS markets and met the project’s objectives. Without any major outages during the trail, the potential for the wind farm to deliver full FCAS contingencies could not be evaluated.

Together with the Hornsdale Power Reserve (aka the world’s biggest battery), Hornsdale Wind Farm 2 lowered FCAS prices from the historically observed $9000/MWh to just $248/MWh. AEMO expect that reduced the cost of the five-hour local South Australian FCAS requirement by approximately $3.5 million.

The successful trial has led the Hornsdale 2 Wind Farm to now be registered and offering FCAS in the National Electricity Market (NEM) – another first for an Australian wind farm.

Read more about the trial at AEMO Energy Live.

Future State NEM analysis finds Tasmania could become the Battery of the Nation

Tasmania has strengthened its case to become the Battery of the Nation as a new study released today by Hydro Tasmania confirms the state can play a significant role in the transformation of the National Electricity Market (NEM) over the next two decades.

On behalf of the Australian Government, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) provided Hydro Tasmania $500,000 in funding to develop a blueprint of the role Tasmania could play in the context of the future NEM. The study was completed as part of the $2.5 million in funding made available for  the Battery of the Nation Project.

The Future State NEM analysis explored how the Tasmanian hydro system can support further on-island renewables development, such as wind, through augmentation of existing hydro-electric power plants, pumped hydro energy storage development and further interconnection with the broader NEM. The analysis concludes Tasmania has potential to expand its role in the NEM and found the Battery of the Nation is a viable and cost-effective option for supporting Australia’s future energy needs.

The study also identified that along with Tasmania’s cost competitive pumped hydro, Tasmania has a diverse wind resource which would generate electricity at different times from the mainland wind resources. The Battery of the Nation hydro projects and a second interconnector could unlock greater wind generation.

ARENA and Hydro Tasmania also recently announced 14 ‘high potential’ sites for pumped hydro plants around existing reservoirs, representing a combined potential capacity of up to 4800 MW. Overall the estimated capital cost across the potential projects is in the region of $1.1-$2.3 million per MW, with most opportunities less than $1.5 million per MW.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said “Tasmania’s vast pumped hydro and renewable energy reserves place it in a great position to increase capacity to the NEM.”

“As renewable energy grows to comprise a larger percentage of the nation’s electricity the importance of storage for reliability also increases. The Battery of the Nation has the potential to provide for the future needs of the NEM,” he said.

“A new connection between the island state and the mainland could help to harness the power of Tasmania’s wind, and the considerable potential for new pumped hydro energy storage.” Mr Frischknecht said.

Hydro Tasmania CEO Steve Davy said the work confirms there’s potential in Tasmania to meet Australia’s future energy needs.

“Two things are now official: Battery of the Nation stacks up very well; and Tasmania can deliver on the opportunity.”

“Of course, we need more interconnection to succeed. Even with that interconnection cost, the Future State NEM analysis confirms Battery of the Nation is a front-runner that’s extremely competitive and cost-effective,” he said.

ARENA has also committed $10 million in funding to support TasNetworks in preparing a technical and commercial feasibility study for a second interconnector from Tasmania.

About the Battery of the Nation

The Battery of the Nation initiative is setting up a blueprint for how Tasmania’s renewable resources are developed over the coming decades. With the support of ARENA, the initiative is advancing studies into projects that if realised, would lock in full energy security for Tasmania, help give Tasmanians access to the lowest possible power prices and deliver reliable, affordable renewable energy. By boosting the hydropower system with pumped hydro, with increased wind generation and more interconnection, Tasmania could also significantly grow its contribution to a future National Electricity Market (NEM).

ARENA has committed $2.5 million in funding for initial pre-feasibility studies to redevelop existing hydro-electric power stations at Tarraleah and Gordon, to identify and scope high potential Pumped Hydroelectric Energy Storage (PHES) sites and to explore the potential of Tasmania to play an expanded role in the NEM.

ARENA media contact:

0407 125 909 | media@arena.gov.au

Download this media release (PDF 127KB)

Musselroe Wind Farm FCAS Trial

Hornsdale Wind Farm Stage 2 (HWF2) FCAS Trial