Clean Power

Published on July 24th, 2013 | by Giles Parkinson


Tasmania’s King Island Reaches 100% Renewables

July 24th, 2013 by  

This article originally published on RenewEconomy

Hydro Tasmania is hailing a major breakthrough with its King Island Renewable Energy Integration Project , saying it has achieved extended periods of 100 per cent renewable energy for the island’s grid – the first time that a grid of this scale has been serviced by wind, solar and storage devices.

The King Island project combines some 2.45MW of wind and a lot less solar power, with storage devices and an automated control system. The $46 million project has been funded by the federal Government and has been described as a potential insight into how Australia’s main grids can wean themselves off fossil fuels.

Project leader Simon Gamble says the major achievement so far has been the ability to switch off all fossil fuels completely for extended periods while variable renewable sources such as wind and solar  are used. This is the first time this has been achieved for a load of this size (some renewable grids such as Pacific island of  Tokelau’s are just 100kW is size), and the first time with predominantly wind power.

“This has removed a key barrier,” Gamble told RenewEconomy. Such systems had usually succeeded in turning down the amount of fossil fuel power needed, but not switching them off altogether. The full range of storage and control management systems have yet to be deployed.

“Achieving 100 per cent renewable energy penetration in large off-grid systems has remained elusive until now, and is very difficult to achieve given the need to maintain reliability and security of power supply under highly variable wind and solar conditions,” he said in an earlier statement.

The overall project aims to cut the use of diesel consumption on King Island by more than 65 per cent over a one year period, but it will allow diesel generators to be switched off when not required. So far it has achieved zero diesel operation for periods of up to 1.5 hours overnight when customer demand is lowest, and in daylight hours under high wind conditions.

Last year, Gamble told RenewEconomy that the project would provide an insight into how the Australian grid might look in a few decades – a combination of renewables backed up by dispatchable power and with storage solutions. “The NEM (National Electricity Market) is a much larger system, but it will have similar technical issues,” Gamble said then. “If we are integrating more wind, and solar, we need to learn how to do it.”

The project is using Hydro Tasmania’s own advanced automated control systems and dynamic resistor technology, coupled with a standard flywheel uninterruptible power supply system, commonly used in hospitals and telephone exchanges. Later this year, customer load control will be introduced, as well as a 3MW battery array from Ecoult, which is developing an enhanced lead battery known as the “UltraBattery” first unveiled by the CSIRO.

Gamble says this enables all diesel generation on King Island to be switched off more often when there is sufficient wind and solar power to meet customer demand. “The transition from diesel power station to 100 per cent renewables, and back again when and as required, is entirely automated and allows the station to achieve significant diesel savings while operating unstaffed.”

The project was to have installed more wind generation, but the closing down of the island’s major industrial site, the local abattoir, last October, caused a rethink. The peak load is around 2.3MW. The project will retain the 2.45MW current wind capacity (which is separate from the plans for a 600MW wind farm on King Island to export electricity to the mainland). It also has a 100kW solar PV array and a further 100kW of solar PV on the rooftops of island homes.

“Hydro Tasmania’s integrated solution ensures that rapid and unpredictable changes in sun or wind conditions don’t cause interruptions to power supply – even when these are the only source of generation available,” the company said in a statement.

“Although there are remote area power systems in some parts of the world that are capable of supplying the energy needs of single homes or small villages, this is the first remote system on this scale capable of supplying the power needs of an entire community, including industrial customers and an extensive distribution network, solely through wind and solar energy.

“Having established that zero diesel operation is possible, we are now looking to increase the duration for which we can operate in this mode.”

Hydro Tasmania is seeking to commercialise its off-grid energy solutions and export these to customers in Australia, and in due course to the Pacific and the South East Asia region.

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About the Author

is the founding editor of, an Australian-based website that provides news and analysis on cleantech, carbon, and climate issues. Giles is based in Sydney and is watching the (slow, but quickening) transformation of Australia's energy grid with great interest.

  • Pieter Siegers


  • Ronald Brakels

    I’ll mention that provided the King Island wind farm goes ahead there will be enough wind power on the island to supply its electricity needs pretty much always. The winds are pretty constant and a breeze barely strong enough to turn the turbines’ blades will be enough to sufficent to meet the island’s needs. The island will be connected to the National Electricity Market grid and any further storage should be build on the mainland or Tasmania.

  • jburt56

    Pumped hydro?

    • RobS

      It’s an island with a maximum altitude of 200metres and no large lakes…

      • Bob_Wallace

        200 meters is enough head. Don’t need lakes.

        Closed loop hydro.

        • RobS

          I kow of no pumped hydro system that doesn’t require a storage reservoir at height. Closed loop systems as far as I was aware refers to systems where both lakes are artificial, however some sort of lake is necessary. I know 200metres is just enough, with a 200metre head each cubic metre of water has about 0.5kwh of potential energy, however on King island the tallest hill is 200metres, a lake large enough to be useful for pumped hydro would be significantly lower, essentially it is a low sloping relatively small island, not well suited to pumped hydro.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Yes, you need one reservoir high and one low. And a bore or pipe running between them.

            You don’t need huge reservoirs. The goal is not to store a month of power, just cover the periods of no/little wind and sunshine.

            But if you think it wouldn’t work there, then, whatever….

          • RobS

            Well, I’m not sure, we do run the “big Island” Tasmania that King Island is the “little Island” for on 90% hydro power so the technical expertise is certainly there. I ‘m not sure whether they have ever done a feasibility study into pumped hydro on the Island, considering Hydro Tasmania is one of the world leaders in Hydro design and implementation and they have chose to go with Diesel UPS, a vanadium flow battery and now a lead based battery for power back up I would have to think it was because what they do best, Hydro, was not possible. I guess it’s possible that Hydro could work but grants were available and they were professionally curious to explore some of these other more exotic options to gauge the state of the technology and increase their expertise as a consulting firm in advanced RAPS technology.
            My gut feeling is Hydro Tasmania would have gone with Hydro as a part of the solution if the potential was their but I am not aware of whether that has been formally investigated.

          • GregB

            For the hydro system, how about we use the ocean surrounding King Island as the low reservoir? Will get maximum height that way.

          • Bob_Wallace

            They call it an artificial island. I call it a hole in the ocean….


          • RobS

            Possible but salt water is killer on mechanical systems and it means the lake can’t be used for any other purpose.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Ships hold up pretty well during decades of salt water life.

            A turbine is pretty much like a propeller. Might need to be cleaned more frequently than in fresh water.

            The generator stuff is not subjected to salt.

          • Ronald Brakels

            25 to 30 years. That’s how long a cargo ship lasts with good maintenance. Of course some people are of the opinion that a ship is still good provided it is not actually at the bottom of the sea and buy ships for scrap and then accidently forget to scrap them and sail them for years under a different name.

    • Wayne Williamson

      Looks like from the article that they are using flywheels and batteries…Don’t know why its named Hydro Tasmania.

      Still very cool….

    • Ronald Brakels

      There is no pumped hydro or hydro power at all on King Island (or if there is it is way tiny). The power company is called Hydro Tasmania because because they used to spend their time damming things until people told them to stop as it was getting ridiculous. Tragically they can’t change their name to Tassie Devil Power on account of how apparently Warner Brothers owns that name.

  • Matt

    Sounds like they need to add more PV into the mix, so they can handle the day time also. 1.5 hours today, then 12 hours, 2 days, 2 weeks, …..

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