Climate

Lucy's Renewable Energy Deep-Dive At Tarraleah Hydropower Station!

I’ve learnt a LOT about renewable energy in the past couple of years, especially since launching The Design Files’ Climate section.

But, it’s one thing to understand renewable energy in theory, and it’s another thing altogether to see it being created with your own eyes!

I recently got the amazing opportunity to visit Tarraleah Power Station, one of the oldest hydropower stations in Tasmania, to see first-hand how Hydro Tasmania makes electricity from water. And honestly, it was mind-blowing!

So join me for a little deep dive into Tassie’s little-known superpower — hydropower.

Written
by
Lucy Feagins
|
Photography
by

Eve Wilson

|
Drone photography
by

Julian Tay

Supported By Momentum Energy

Tarraleah Power Station was built in 1938, making it one of Tasmania’s first hydropower stations. Water flows through the penstocks (pipes) from the top of the hill, through the turbines in the power station and into the Derwent river below.

View from above the power station, looking at the penstocks which carry water from the top of the hill to the power station below.

Ben Morice, Area Coordinator at Hydro Tasmania, gave us a tour of Tarraleah Power Station. He’s been working here for over a decade, and keeps everything running smoothly.

Safety first! Lucy stands on a walkway where the water leaves the power station, gushing underneath to reach the river.

Ben explains that Tarraleah is part of a ‘run of river’ system, which means the water in this hydropower system follows the natural flows of the river.

Water travels through the power station, exiting into the river below.

Built in 1938, Tarraleah Power Station is heritage listed, and full of Art Deco details.

These giant machines on the left are the turbines – Tarraleah has 6 large turbines which water passes through to generate electricity.

Tarraleah Power Station was built in 1938, making it one of Tasmania’s oldest power stations.

The control room!

This equipment measures water levels and energy output throughout the hydropower system. Even though these controls have been updated with modern technology, the control room remains intact for heritage purposes!

Writer
Lucy Feagins
Photography

Eve Wilson

Drone photography

Julian Tay

11th of July 2024

Way before climate scientists starting sounding the alarm about climate change in the 1980’s, Tasmania was already leading Australia as a renewable energy powerhouse.

That’s because Tasmania has been making renewable energy since the early 1900’s. I know this, because last month I visited the incredible Tarraleah Power Station in the central highlands of Tasmania, which has been making electricity to power Tasmanian homes and business since 1938!

On mainland Australia, we tend to hear a lot about solar and wind as sources of renewable energy, but we don’t hear quite so much about Hydropower. And that’s a shame, because hydropower really punches above its weight as a renewable energy source.

Hydropower is the process of generating electricity from the flow of moving water. In this process, water travels from the top of a steep hill to the bottom, via either a river or a man-made pipe system. At a certain point in that flow, the water passes through turbines, which spin a rotor containing magnets. When these magnets spin around in opposition, they create electrical energy. That energy is then captured and converted to 11,000 volt power, and fed into the energy grid.

Importantly, in this process, no waste is created, no toxic gases are emitted, and in the case of Tarraleah Power Station, the water just flows back into the river system and eventually makes it way to Hobart, passing through another five hydropower stations along the way.

During my visit to Tarraleah, I learnt that there are 30 hydropower stations across Tasmania. This impressive network has enabled Tasmania to become the first Australian state or territory that is 100 per cent self-sufficient in renewable electricity. Tasmania was also the first state to achieve net zero emissions — a milestone it has maintained for the past seven years. Go Tassie!

So, what is it about Tasmania that makes it a hydropower-house!? Well, to generate hydropower you need lots of water, and steep hills — both things Tassie has in abundance.

And the final piece in the puzzle, is storage. This is where hydropower really shines! Unlike solar and wind, which generate energy that is hard to store, water can be stored (in dams and reservoirs) until energy is needed. So, depending on rainfall, Hydro Tasmania can hold water over long periods of time, optimising energy generation at times when it is most needed. This means hydropower has the potential to smooth out the volatility of other renewable power sources in the energy grid — a key requirement as we increase renewable energy output across Australia, and decarbonise the grid by 2050.

I learnt so much during my visit to Tarraleah Power Station, and it really was incredible to see this 1930’s power station still going strong today, combining historic feats of engineering, with modern technology and innovation. But more than that, it was so uplifting to see first hand what is possible when we invest confidently in renewable energy, working with nature rather than against it.

Momentum Energy is 100% owned by Hydro Tasmania — Australia’s largest generator of renewable energy. Find out more about signing up to an energy retailer that supports the transition to renewables.

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