Large-Scale Solar Power On The Horizon In Tasmania?

Renewable energy self-sufficiency in Tasmania
Large-scale solar may find a (limited) place in Tasmania after a pledge by the Hodgman Government to make the state “renewable energy self sufficient” if re-elected in 2018.

The announcement from Energy Minister Matthew Groom was made just prior to the public release of the final Energy Security Taskforce report.

“This will require up to 1,000 Gigawatt Hours of additional renewable generation in Tasmania. This equates to enough additional renewable energy capacity to replace power imports via Basslink,” said Minister Groom.

Minister Groom stated the target would further cement Tasmania’s position as the renewable energy battery of the nation; while enhancing energy security.

Energy security became a pressing issue for the Apple Isle in late 2015 after a fault in the Basslink cable that connects Tasmania to the mainland prevented electricity being transmitted in either direction. The situation plunged the state into an energy crisis, one that wasn’t resolved until mid-June 2016.

As a result of the crisis, the Energy Security Taskforce was assembled to identify strategies to help protect Tasmania from similar situations. The Taskforce’s Final Report was published yesterday.

The report states Tasmania has an annual deficit of on-island hydro-electric and wind generation compared to consumption of between 700 GWh to 1000 GWh per annum (around 7 – 10% of total electricity consumption), based on long term average inflows.

To address this issue and the risks it poses, five priority actions have been identified:

  1. Define energy security and responsibilities.
  2. Strengthen independent energy security monitoring and assessment.
  3. Establish a more rigorous and more widely understood framework for the management of water storages.
  4. Retain the Tamar Valley Power Station as a backup power station for the present and provide clarity to the Tasmanian gas market.
  5. Support new on-island generation and customer innovation.

The Taskforce eyed gas warily, stating increasing supply and price risks associated with the fossil fuel and pipeline access.

While hydro and wind are the go-to options for renewables in Tasmania, the Taskforce says solar power’s potential should be given consideration.

“Tasmania has a world class wind resource, but the cost competitiveness of wind could be challenged over time as the cost of other technologies decline,” states the report. “Large-scale solar development should not be dismissed, despite Tasmania’s resource being relatively more limited than mainland Australia.”

The report also acknowledged small-scale solar power systems and battery storage can play a role reducing Tasmania’s on-island energy deficit, but states this contribution would be “small”.

If large-scale solar power does get a look-in, it likely won’t be a huge amount. The Government says already announced wind farm developments alone will deliver approximately 800GWh per annum.

The Government has indicated support or in-principle support for all 36 of the recommendations contained in the Final Report, which can be downloaded here.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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