Tasmania gets wind future

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After nearly 20 years of monitoring the wind on Tasmania's windy west coast, the Australian island's state government has finally announced what wind advocates have said for years: Tasmania is a great spot for wind power. Last month, the head of the state-run Hydro Electric Commission (HEC), Peter Rae, announced the first stage of potentially 400 MW of wind power-a 76 MW wind farm on a 3000 hectare site.

Rae assures that the HEC had also secured wind development rights for other sites further down the west coast. Admitting that hydro development has been taken "as far as it can be commercially taken," Rae describes the wind announcement as "historic," comparing it to the HEC's first hydro development at Great lake in 1910. "In our view, this west coast wind farm project will be the turning point for Tasmania in the 21st century as hydro development was in the 20th century," he states.

The first stage, to be located at Woolnorth, will consist of 6 MW, scheduled for installation next year, followed by 35 MW in 2002, and an additional 35 MW in 2004. Following that, developments will take place south of Marrawah and near Granville Harbour, taking the potential of the scheme to over 400 MW.

In making the announcement, however, Rae was hedging his bets, saying that the full 400 MW project will be commercially viable only with the introduction of the federal government's greenhouse credits trading system, which will follow the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. Sales of green power credits to electricity suppliers, and the completion of the undersea transmission connection to the Australian mainland, Basslink, will allow Tasmania to export renewable energy to retailers required to buy more green electricity under new legislation to encourage an extra 2% contribution of renewable energy to the national grid.

Rae is also hoping the announcement will attract manufacturers for assembling wind turbines and making towers. "Further wind farm development and the manufacture and assembly of the technical components meets Hydro's vision for business growth, moving us towards achieving our goal of becoming Tasmania's world renowned renewable energy business," he says.

Head of research at HEC, Sergio Giudici, says the "very good result" achieved by the Tasmania HEC's first wind farm at King Island gave the organisation the confidence and experience to proceed with the first stage of the west coast development. The project has saved HEC, A$400,000 in diesel fuel costs during its first year of operation. The A$3 million 750 kW cluster of three turbines at Huxley Hill has generated between a low of 14% and a high of 21% of the total energy demand for the island over the 12 month period.


Average wind speed for the period was in excess of 9 m/s. "We are very pleased with the performance of the wind farm," CEO Geoff Willis says, adding that the fuel savings were in addition to the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from the diesel power station of about 1900 tonnes. The turbines, installed in April 1998, were supplied by German-Danish company Nordex.

Although the HEC will evaluate expressions of interest before deciding on the final size of the turbines, Giudici says the most likely size will be in the 700-800 kW range due to the good wind regime at the site. This is excellent, he adds, and "in excess of 7 m/s." Tenders for the A$10 million stage one of development will be called for this month and the project is expected to be in the ground by end 2000.

Giudici says that although federal legislation was needed to create a market for more green power, the HEC could supply its 1.5% annual load growth-about 35 MW-by using wind alone. "It's a good match," he says, adding that "wind was always on the back burner, but now there's no more hydro left." Tradeable renewable energy credits would give wind an economic edge over other renewables, he points out.

If both Basslink and the green power market create more demand, the full 400 MW would create "the biggest wind development in Australia and probably the biggest in the world in one spot," according to Giudici. Several prospective buyers of the project's output and its green credits have approached HEC, even ahead of the federal legislation now not due until early 2001.

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