Hydropower built our past and now defines our future

07 April 2022

Tasmania’s long history of hydropower will underpin our future. The Tarraleah hydropower scheme is a shining example of how our pioneering efforts have set us up beautifully to support today’s transitioning energy market.


Tarraleah has been part of Hydro Tasmania’s Battery of the Nation vision from the start. This vision highlights the potential to repurpose existing hydropower assets to better align to future electricity market opportunities and deliver more value from the same water resource.


For over 80 years, Tarraleah has been one of Tasmania’s most important power schemes and an icon of the Derwent Valley. Water flows from Lake King William to be re-used in six power stations along the Upper Derwent. Tarraleah contributes around 6.5 per cent of our annual energy production, faithfully generating ‘baseload’ power to homes and businesses each day.


Thanks to funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, Hydro Tasmania reimagined the scheme for the future. A potential $700 million redevelopment of Tarraleah could increase the scheme’s responsiveness, flexibility and almost double its generation capacity.


There’s more work to be done to get the investment decision across the line but as evidenced by this week’s announcement, both state and federal governments are keen to realise this exciting vision.


Funding from the Federal Government triggers a staged program of upgrade works at Tarraleah that position the scheme well for the future. Not only do the works enable us to maintain our ability to progress redevelopment but they will help manage risk on ageing assets. That’s a win-win. 



The good news is that there are immediate benefits from the construction work starting in coming months. The upgrade works will bring a welcome injection of jobs and investment for the Derwent Valley region and Tasmania. 



This upgrade work will happen alongside activity to inform an investment decision or ‘green light’ on a future redevelopment.


These sorts of hydropower projects – ones that can provide stable and reliable energy quickly and on demand – are critical to Australia’s energy future. Wind and solar are now the cheapest forms of energy, but they cannot be relied on alone as they are variable.


Hydropower is the perfect back-up. It can ramp generation up and down as needed, which ‘fills the gaps’ and provides stability for the grid. The technical term is ‘synchronous generation’ and it’s something Hydro Tasmania has gotten very good at since joining the NEM in 2006. 


When all that cheap wind and sunshine is in excess, energy storage is essential for capturing and storing it. Batteries both big and small will play a part, as will hydropower and pumped hydro. With the sheer scale of Australia’s coming energy transformation, we will need every one of these technologies.



But for Tasmania to contribute to – and benefit from – this transformation, we need more interconnection. Marinus Link will open up the state’s opportunity. For Hydro Tasmania, the first 750MW cable will allow us to export more cost competitive energy than ever before, which is where Tarraleah’s redevelopment comes in. 


Rolling out the second cable provides a target for completing our pumped hydro project at Lake Cethana, where we’ve just wrapped up our technical feasibility study.

If the green light is given to invest in the redevelopment of Tarraleah, Hydro Tasmania would start work on revamping Tarraleah’s ageing water canals and pipelines and build a brand new station, bringing a further welcome injection of jobs and investment to the region. 


Importantly, most of this work will be done within already developed footprints. So far, we have completed a range of initial environmental, social and heritage assessments, and there are more thorough studies to come as we move towards an investment decision. 


The Upper Derwent is rich with environmental and social values and we intend to ensure it remains that way. Hydro Tasmania is very conscious that our state’s precious water is a shared resource for all, including the environment.



While this work is expected to change the operations of schemes on the Derwent, our modelling is showing there won’t be significant impacts downstream. Councils, landowners, irrigators, anglers, kayakers and any interested party will all be able to engage with us and have their say if the redevelopment proceeds.


We get asked a lot about the future of the iconic art deco building that is the current Tarraleah Power Station if a redevelopment went ahead. A heritage assessment will help determine a long term future for the building. Hydro Tasmania already operates a museum at Waddamana nearby, which tells you we’re serious about preserving our history for future generations.


At Hydro Tasmania, we are stewards of an incredible legacy and committed to build on this and hand it over to the next generation in even better shape. We are ready to deliver the Battery of the Nation, playing our part in achieving Tasmania’s bold vision for renewable energy.


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