Despite its utilities being in debt and having more capacity than needed, Tasmania thinks it is the right time to introduce wind energy. The Hydro-electric Commission of Tasmania is now proposing a wind energy plant on King Island north of Tasmania's coast.

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For the energy minister of Tasmania in Australia's far south east, seeing is believing. After a recent tour of Californian wind farms, Robin Gray believes that wind power could become part of the island state's power options. But while environment groups and renewables advocates think this about time, the chances of substantial wind plant entering the island grid in the near term are remote, given the state's current power station debt and huge over capacity.

In a recent paper published by Andrew Blakers of the Australian National University, the Hydro-electric Commission of Tasmania (HECT) is accused of building two hydro power stations that were not needed at a cost of A$1200 million. Blakers contends that the HECT grossly overestimated the cost of wind energy in the 1980s and used a federal government grant worth $500 million to reduce the cost of the unneeded hydro schemes instead of investing the money in energy efficiency and renewables -- particularly wind energy. If the HECT had invested in wind plant, contends Blakers, this would have followed the utility's load growth much more closely and avoided the huge borrowing for unneeded hydro. Meanwhile, the HECT study has found that there are no adverse environmental impacts for a proposed wind plant on King Island off Tasmania's north coast. In the latest report, the HECT is considering up to 700 kW of wind.

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