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

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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