< Back to News Archive

posted on:

Tasmania grid struggles


Source: Reneweconomy, 25 Jan 2016

Tasmania’s electricity grid is facing its biggest challenge in years, with its hydro storage about to fall to its lowest levels ever, bushfires forcing the closure of some power facilities, and a faulty cable cutting the connection between the island and the country’s main electricity grid.

The Apple Isle’s main source of electricity – hydro power – is being challenged by its driest ever spring, pushing reserves down to just 18.9 per cent.

The lowest level ever is 16.5 per cent, reached in 2007, but overall storage levels are predicted to fall to a low of 14 per cent by the end of March – if normal rainfall patterns resume. At current rates, however, some fear they may fall below those levels, although there has been some light rain in recent days.

To make matters worse, the Basslink cable linking the island’s grid to the mainland has been cut by technical problems, and will probably remain closed for another two months, while the raging bushfires have threatened power lines and forced the temporary closure of at least two hydro plants.

“These circumstances are extraordinary and unprecedented,” Premier Will Hodgman and energy minister Matthew Groom said in a joint statement late last week. “It will be tough, but we will get through it.”

To address the issue, the government has had to bring its Tamar Valley gas power generator – scheduled for permanent closure last year – out of mothballs.

That has provided 280MW of added capacity, but the government is now looking to bring another 105MW of gas and diesel power back into the system to hedge against further depletion of its hydro resources.

TEMCO, the operator of the country’s only s manganese alloy smelter, has volunteered to cut its demand in half – down to 30MW – to try to ease the problem, although the government is confident that it will not have to impose power restrictions on other users