Published on November 24th, 2017 | by Joshua S Hill0
Australian Government Considers Second Basslink Interconnector Between Tasmania & Mainland
November 24th, 2017 by Joshua S Hill
The Australian Government is moving forward with plans to investigate the possibility of constructing a second Basslink interconnector between Tasmania and the mainland in a move which could bring to reality dreams of turning the country’s southern-most state into the “battery of Australia.”
Located off the southern tip of Australia, Tasmania is the butt of many jokes for mainlanders like myself — so I’m tempted to suggest that we’ve finally found a use for the little island state, but that would be mean. Regardless, over the past year or so there have been numerous proposals proposed and editorials written suggesting that, with the right policies and development, Tasmania could become Australia’s renewable energy battery.
Tasmania already has a tremendous amount of renewable energy capacity at work, and at times runs on 100% renewable energy due to significant levels of hydropower and wind energy. The hopes for becoming Australia’s renewable energy battery rest in plans to scale up and develop large capacities of pumped-hydro storage, which would theoretically mean Tasmania could provide enough electricity to the mainland’s National Electricity Market (NEM) to run half a million homes — at least.
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has already committed $2.5 million to Hydro Tasmania to undertake early-stage feasibility studies as part of the Battery of the Nation project. This includes upgrading existing hydro power stations, identifying 15 high potential sites for pumped-hydro storage, and how wind power and hydro can help provide dispatchable, reliable power to other states across the country.
To make this a reality, however, a second interconnector link would need to be built between Australia and Tasmania, which would expand the amount of electricity Tasmania could export to the NEM, as well as provide a backup power supply to Tasmania.
Back in late 2015, the single Basslink interconnector between the mainland and Tasmania failed — the high-voltage cable crossing along the seafloor of Bass Strait between the Loy Yang Power Station in Victoria on the Australian Mainland and the George Town substation in northern Tasmania. As a result, Tasmania lost some of its regular electricity supply and had to rely on gas and diesel generation to ensure that electricity was available to everyone. Things returned to normal in May of 2016 thanks to heavy rainfalls, which allowed Hydro Tasmania — the Government-owned primary electricity generator on the island — to announce that its renewable energy sources were powering 100% of Tasmania’s electricity needs.
But with ever-changing climates, and traditionally harsh and extreme weather events a part of Australian history, the potential for rainfalls to slacken enough to threaten Tasmania’s power supply is real.
Increasing pumped-hydro storage and installing a second Basslink interconnector would mitigate issues for Tasmania and expand the island-state’s role in the National Electricity Market.
Announced on Friday, on behalf of the Australian Government, the ARENA and TasNetworks announced that they were working together to explore a more detailed feasibility and business case assessment of installing a second Basslink interconnector. The detailed feasibility and business case assessment will be funded by ARENA and TasNetworks at a cost of around $20 million. The business case for a second interconnector linking Tasmania and Victoria — its closest neighbor — would consider the following:
- The optimum capacity
- The preferred route
- Technical specifications and supply arrangements for the cable, and grid interconnections
- Potential timing
- Detailed cost estimates
- Regulatory revenue investment test
- Financial and development models to implement the second interconnector
“Tasmania has some of Australia’s best wind resources, a large established hydro electric system and the potential to develop pumped hydro sites,” said ARENA Chief Executive Officer Ivor Frischknecht. “To harness this potential, a second interconnector would need to be constructed to enable further generation and storage capacity to be delivered to the rest of the NEM.
“With Hydro Tasmania, ARENA is already investigating the feasibility for new wind and pumped hydro, and this business case would be the next step.”