Kicking diesel (and the injectors) off the islands

24 August 2018

In some respects, the remote island communities of Bass Strait suffer from too much of a good thing. Whilst the island’s isolation provides them with a certain soul reviving, rugged appeal and freedom it also means that they can’t depend on either mainland Tasmania or mainland Australia for their energy supply. Historically, this has meant that the communities on Flinders and King have relied on diesel generators to keep the lights on. Putting their faith in gasoline is not only expensive but with some of the best wind resources in the world at their disposal, let’s be honest, it’s a crying shame.    

At Hydro we getta kick out of increasing renewable energy penetration across Australia. So coming up with a masterplan to significantly reduce diesel dependency and deliver reliable electricity supply using a high proportion of renewable energy to the remote island communities of Bass Strait was a project that our hybrid energy solutions team couldn’t wait to get stuck into. 

Unfortunately neither island has the right topography to warrant any sort of hydropower activity – it’s true, you never miss your water ‘til you’re dry. In order to take advantage of Bass Straits’ incredibly windy climate three new wind turbines where erected, two on King Island and one on Flinders. However, even in Bass Strait, the wind doesn’t blow all the time. So to steal the sunshine solar photovoltaic generation was also installed on both islands - that’s solar panels if you were wondering. 

A large piece of machineryRenewable generation in and of its self is not new to the Bass Strait islands. In fact, both King and Flinders already had wind turbines (and King used biofuel) long before the hybrid energy solutions team started to dig around; in fact Hydro Tasmania installed Australia’s first wind farm on King Island in 1998 (three turbines, but more than one is a farm!). However what has allowed the islands to give up the stinky black stuff, was the highly innovative enabling and storage technologies that the team came up with. 
These include uninterrupted power supply diesel engines (D-UPS) which, wait for it, this is the crazy bit. Use the excess wind energy (when there is some) rather than diesel power to maintain their motion. When there is not enough wind the sheer size of the engine's flywheel means that they have enough inertia to maintain their own motion. With cool inventions like that no wonder everybody is becoming love junk on STEM. 

Our team has also installed new advanced battery storage systems on both islands. The battery on King Island was actually the largest installed in Australia at the time (much bigger than your average 9 volt, so not one I'll be putting right on the tip of my tongue). It can power the whole island on its own for about 45 minutes, but more importantly in conjunction with the other cool tech, it can keep the island running on 100% renewables for days (yes days!) at a time – if it’s windy enough. Man alive there is a lot to love about that. 

Large shipping containers used to house energy the hybrid energy systemThe final component of the hybrid energy solution team’s solution, say that five times fast, was to install a smart control system that focuses on the management of power. The system ensures that next to no energy is wasted and that the amount of energy being transmitted on an island matches the amount that is required at any given time. If people aren’t using the energy that is being generated it is transmitted into storage and not into the distribution network. 

Since late 2014, it’s estimated that 5.27 million litres of diesel has been saved on King and Flinders. That’s equivalent 500 typical fuel trucks. You don’t need love for renewables to see the cost savings in that.

So whilst the rest of Australia still has to struggle through at least 15 feet of snow to achieve 100% renewable operation, Bass Strait islanders are enjoying their hybrid solutions, which over the last 4 years have delivered over 10,000 hours of diesel free operation.

No Diesel was harmed in the writing of this blog. But we reckon diesel should stick to music, because thanks to our hybrid energy solutions, it’s been relegated to a supporting act on the Bass Strait islands.


Aerial view of Cluny dam and power station

Cluny gets a little work done >

No not that Clooney. Our Cluny is about 30m tall, largely made of concrete and surprisingly about six years younger. Clearly, power stations deteriorate at a faster rate than Hollywood icons (arguably, they work a little harder), and the ‘work done’ here is closer to reconstructive surgery than your average aging actor face lift.


Engineering diversity >

Nurturing a culture of inclusion where diverse views and experiences are embraced and every person is valued and respected is one of our major objectives at Hydro Tasmania. That’s why we’re so proud to be one of two sponsors for Engineers Australia’s diversity in engineering scholarship for women.

Mountainous terrain with a large river running through a valley

How can a dam be a battery? >

Any water in a Hydro Tasmania dam is potential energy. We collect water in our dams then run it downhill to spin turbines creating energy. All that water sitting in our dams is like a big pool of electricity waiting for when it’s needed.