Authorities are looking at expanding two hydro-electric power stations in Tasmania, and developing significant pumped hydro energy storage.

On behalf of the Australian Government, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has committed up to $2.5 million towards Hydro Tasmania’s Battery of the Nation feasibility studies.

Hydro Tasmania says it will match the federal funding.

The funding will be used to assess the feasibility of expanding and redeveloping two existing hydro-electric power stations and outline high potential pumped hydro sites across Tasmania.

The experts are also considering a third study focusing on expanding Tasmania’s role in supporting the National Electricity Market, through increased pumped hydro energy storage and wind power.

ARENA chief Ivor Frischknecht said the studies would look at how pumped hydro could play an expanded role in Australia’s energy mix, and help accelerate the nation’s transition to renewable energy.

ARENA has already announced support for detailed feasibility studies for Snowy Hydro 2.0, and pumped hydro projects in Spencer Gulf and Kidston.

“These feasibility studies are the first step towards significantly upgrading or replacing some of Tasmania’s existing power stations and introducing pumped hydro energy storage,” Frischknecht said.

“With these projects, we could more than double Tasmania’s hydro capacity and power an additional 500,000 households. Tasmania could play a crucial role in helping to provide secure, reliable – and renewable – electricity for the National Energy Market,” he said.

Hydro Tasmania CEO Steve Davy said Tasmania could show the way through Australia’s energy transition.

“At the moment, about 80 per cent of Australia’s electricity comes from coal-fired plants that will eventually close. Tasmania currently provides about 5% of Australia’s
electricity,” Davy said.

“By boosting our hydropower system, further developing our world-class wind power, and increasing interconnection, we could grow our contribution significantly,” he said.

“As Australia’s largest generator of renewable energy, Hydro has the skills and experience to drive an energy future that’s clean, reliable and affordable.”

Experts will explore the potential for pumped hydro energy storage across Tasmania, looking at approximately 30 sites based on technical feasibility and topography, environmental sensitivity, land use constraints, road access and access to grid, proximity to existing renewable energy assets, construction risks and capital costs.

They will then conduct a full pre-feasibility assessment of 10-15 shortlisted pumped hydro sites across Tasmania.

There will also be studies of the redevelopment of the Tarraleah Power Scheme and the augmentation of the Gordon Power Station.

The 80-year-old Tarraleah Power Station in the Derwent Valley would involve building a new power station at a cost of up to $650 million, increasing energy output by up to 200GWh a year.

Plans to augment the 432MW Gordon Power Station would involve building a new turbine.

Currently, to manage environmental water flows, one of the largest turbines is currently being run at very low efficiency. Augmenting it would allow more efficient generation from existing environmental water flows to the Gordon River.

The initial stages of the studies will be completed by the end of the year.