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Renewable Energy

 

Introduction

Renewable energy is produced from resources that replenish themselves in a short time frame.  For example, energy obtained from wind power or water (hydro) does not "use up" any resources in its creation, thereby ensuring an inexhaustible supply.  Other forms of renewable energy include solar photovoltaic, solar thermal, geothermal, wave and biomass.

Fossil fuels, such as oil, coal and gas, are finite resources, which are being depleted at a rapid rate, as well as producing carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas of major concern in the issue of global warming.

Renewable energy produces less CO2 emissions than energy obtained by burning fossil fuels, and is consequentially a preferable source of energy.

Tasmania is currently the leader of renewable energy generation in Australia and is well known for its impressive hydro electricity system.  Tasmania also has one of the best performing wind farms in the world at Woolnorth on the North West coast of Tasmania.

Renewable hydro and wind power currently represents 87 per cent of mainland Tasmania's installed electricity generation capacity.

There is significant potential for the expansion of renewable energy generation in Tasmania and for Tasmania to become a showcase for tomorrow's renewable energy technologies.

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Hydro

Tasmania is unique within Australia as the only State that generates a large proportion of its electricity from hydro-electric power schemes.

Hydro has been the predominant source of electricity in Tasmania since the first power stations were built in the early 1900's.

To date, there are 29 hydro-electricity power plants in seven different catchment areas throughout Tasmania.

These catchment areas are:

  • Great Lake - South Esk;
  • Derwent;
  • Mersey Forth;
  • Gordon - Pedder;
  • Pieman - Anthony;
  • King; and
  • Yolande

The State's hydro-electric resources are managed by Hydro Tasmania, a State-owned Company. Further information regarding Hydro Tasmania's hydro-electricity system can be found on their website.

In addition to Hydro Tasmania's large hydro scheme, the Rivers and Water Supply Commission (RWSC) currently own and operate a 2 megawatt (MW) mini-hydro generator at the Meander Dam in the State's North.  The mini-hydro generator is connected to the State's electricity grid.

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Wind

Lying in the path of the Roaring Forties - the prevailing westerly winds that circle the earth's high southern latitudes - Tasmania has world class resources for the generation of wind power.

Currently, there are two operating wind farms in the State - Woolnorth Wind Farm in the State's North-West and the Huxley Hill Wind Farm on King Island.

There are a number of privately owned wind turbines in the State; including a 225 kilowatt (kW) wind turbine located on the Nicholas Poultry Farm and two wind turbines on Flinders Island with a combined generation capacity of 80 kW.

Additionally, there are a small but growing number of Tasmanian customers with distributed renewable energy generators, based on wind, solar photovoltaic cells and rubbish tip methane.

Woolnorth Wind Farm

The 140 MW Woolnorth Wind Farm site is located on the historic 'Woolnorth' grazing property on the far north-west tip of Tasmania.  The three stage project was completed in May 2007 and is the biggest wind farm operating in the southern hemisphere. Woolnorth Wind Farm is owned and operated by Roaring 40s Pty Ltd - a partnership between Hydro Tasmania and the China Light and Power Group.

Huxley Hill Wind Farm

The Huxley Hill Wind Farm is located on King Island and was the second commercial wind farm to be established in Australia. Hydro Tasmania owns and operates the Huxley Hill Wind Farm. 

Commissioned in 1998, the Wind Farm originally consisted of three 250 kW Nordex wind turbines.  In 2003 the Wind Farm was expanded with the addition of two new 850 kW Vestas turbines, bringing the Wind Farm's total installed capacity to 2.45 MW. 

The Wind Farm is a significant contribution to King Island's electricity system, now accounting for 35 per cent of the Island's electricity generation capacity and saving some $1 million per annum on the alternative of full generation by diesel fuel.

The wind turbine generators on King Island are restricted to providing a maximum of 70 per cent of the Island's energy needs at any one time, because of the inherent variability in wind and the inability of the wind turbines to independently manage system frequency and voltage.

Nichols Poultry Wind Turbine

Blowing in the Wind Pty Ltd own and operate a 225 kW wind turbine at the Nichols Poultry Farm in Sassafras.  The electricity generated by the wind turbine is used to supply the Farm's processing plant and when it is not needed on site, power is fed back into the State's electricity grid. 

The State Government contributed $65,000 to the project through the CleanBiz grant scheme, which encourages Tasmanian enterprises to adopt clean, green and resource efficient pratices. 

Nichols Poultry expects that the installation of the wind turbine will reduce the Farm's energy bill by about 60 per cent and capital investment in the project is likely to be returned in about three to five years.

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Renewable Energy Proposals in Tasmania

There a number of new proposals and projects taking place within the renewable energy sector in the State.  These developments include:

Wind

Roaring 40s' proposed Musselroe wind farm, which is in the final stages of turbine procurement, will provide an additional 129 MW of electricity generation capacity to the State. 

The Musselroe wind farm site is in the north east of the State, 100 kilometres north-east of Launceston and 20 kilometres north of Gladstone.  Subject to economic viability, the Musselroe project will proceed as a 60 turbine wind farm.  The project also includes the construction of a transmission line to connect the wind farm site to Tasmanian electricity grid at Derby.

The installation of wind turbine generators on Flinders Island and further wind development on King Island are also currently being investigated.

Various other wind farm prospects have been identified around the State and are in various stages of consideration.

Geothermal

Geothermal energy has the potential to produce large quantities of emission free, renewable and sustainable energy on a fairly constant basis.  Currently a number of companies are exploring Tasmania's geothermal resources. 

The geology in Tasmania is very favourable for 'hot rocks' geothermal energy, which is supported by drilling done to date by companies like KUTh Energy. 

KUTh Energy has produced some good results of surface heat flow values from its drilling program on its Tasmanian geothermal tenement.  The range of surface heat flows recorded from KUTh's tenement in eastern Tasmania lie in the top 17 per cent of values for all of Australia and are within the range of values commonly reported from the Cooper Basin.

KUTh has also begun the process of developing grid connection strategies to enable it to connect any power developed into the electricity grid.

Tasmania has an advantage that, unlike the larger mainland States, any geothermal developments are likely to be relatively close to a high voltage transmission line and this is relevant to the costs of connecting to the Tasmanian electricity grid, as well as to the national market through Basslink.

Other companies involved in exploration of geothermal resources include Geopower Proprietary Limited, which has application to explore an area covering 4 892 sq km and Geothermal Energy Tasmania Proprietary Limited which has three licenses covering 8 495 sq km.

Wave and Tidal

A number of proponents have shown a keen interest in accessing Tasmania's excellent wave and tidal resources for the development of wave and tidal power schemes in the State.  Potential areas for development include the West Coast, the Tamar River and areas within Bass Strait. 

Hydro Tasmania recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Sydney-based company BioSystems to undertake trials of its Biowave technology on King Island, and its Biostream tidal-current system on Flinders Island.  The aim is to generate 250 kW of electricity for both Islands by 2008.

King Island - Integrated Renewable Energy Project

The Integrated Renewable Energy Project, when completed will provide around 65 per cent of King Island's electricity requirements.  The first stage, which is now complete, is the installation of tracking solar panels with associated equipment with a capacity of 100 kilowatts, plus a resistive frequency control system to help make better use of the existing wind energy.

The second stage of the proposal, which has yet to be approved, includes the addition of approximately 2 MW of extra wind generation capacity and possibly the utilisation of a energy storage system to store any excess energy generated by the wind turbines and solar panels.

Bioenergy

Opportunities to exploit waste as an energy source have been taken up by the landfill gas plants operating at Hobart and Glenorchy Councils' landfill sites.  These are operated by Australian Gas Light Company (AGL) and produce about 2.6 MW of electricity between them.

There are several businesses producing small quantities of biodiesel, and some are planning to bring new supplies into production.  Macquarie Oil, which is based in Cressy, is planning to use waste oils from the poppy industry to produce fuel. 

There are also proposals to use waste tallow from Longford and the Cradoc Hill abattoirs.  It is expected that this industry may develop into a small but productive sector transforming underutilised resources into valuable fuel.

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Mandatory Renewable Energy Target

In 2001 the Australian Government introduced a Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) scheme. The scheme aims to increase the uptake of renewable energy in Australia's electricity supply.

MRET is administered by the Office of the Renewable Regulator (ORER) and places a legal liability on wholesale purchasers of electricity to proportionately contribute towards the generation of an additional 9,500 gigawatt hours (GWh) of renewable energy annually by 2010.

MRET has been a key to investment and technology development in the renewable energy industry.  It has been responsible for expanding employment and opportunities, especially in regional areas.  The measure has also spurred research and demonstration programs encouraging a wide range of renewable energy technologies across the spectrum of the industry from photovoltaics and bioenergy to geothermal and wind.

Further information on the MRET can be found at the Office of Renewable Energy Regulator website.

Expanded National Renewable Energy Target

In 2007 the Australian Government committed to ensuring that 20 per cent of Australia's electricity supply comes from renewable energy sources by 2020.

To deliver on this commitment, the Australian Government is working in cooperation with the States and Territories through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), to implement an expanded national Renewable Energy Target (RET) that will bring the MRET and existing and proposed state and territory targets into a single national RET scheme.

The national Renewable Energy Target scheme will:

  • increase the existing Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) by more than four times to 45,000 gigawatt hours in 2020;
  • contribute to meeting Australia's targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions;
  • provide a market incentive to accelerate uptake of Australia's abundant renewable energy sources, which include solar, wind and geothermal energy;
  • reduce red tape by bringing existing State-based targets into a single, national scheme.

The national RET scheme will be phased out between 2020 and 2030 as the Australian Government's Emissions Trading Scheme matures.

The design work on the national RET scheme is due to be completed in September 2008, with legislation in place by mid-2009.

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