Why has Hydro Tasmania scrapped its TasWind project?

Renewable energy projects are emerging across Australia all the time, although it has been announced that one major initiative in Tasmania will no longer be happening.

Hydro Tasmania revealed how work on its TasWind project would come to an end, meaning King Island will no longer benefit from a 600-megawatt wind farm.

Plans for the farm were revealed two years ago and hoped the renewable energy source could be connected up to the National Electricity Market using a high-voltage underwater cable.

This would be responsible for transporting the electricity through the Bass Strait to Victoria so it could be distributed to homes and businesses through electricity suppliers.

Barriers to the TasWind project

CEO of Hydro Tasmania Steve Davy cited economic concerns as the main reason why the wind farm would no longer be going ahead.

He revealed how it would not be economically viable either as a standalone project or staged connection for Tasmania, even though both options had been considered.

In fact, the company established that extending the staged connection would be more costly than providing a direct link between Tasmania and its mainland counterpart.

Compared to the original estimate of the cost of the project, changes in economic conditions have meant estimated capital costs would increase by approximately $150 million.

The popularity of wind power in Australia

Although solar power has perhaps stolen many of the headlines over recent years, wind is still making its mark on the renewable energy industry.

The Clean Energy Australia Report 2013 identified how 14.76 per cent of Australia's electricity came from renewable sources last year, which is enough to provide power to around 5 million properties.

Last year alone, wind farms were responsible for generating more than a quarter of clean energy in the country and 4 per cent of total electricity needs.

The Clean Energy Council explained that wind power is the lowest cost renewable energy source to be rolled out on a large scale, suggesting that projects should be given the push they need.

By the end of last year, a total of 16 projects were in the pipeline across Australia, capable of providing a combined capacity of 1,896 megawatts once completed.

As for existing wind farms, 1,639 turbines were functioning and generated 3,240 megawatts of renewable electricity.

The largest wind farm currently operating in Australia is the Macarthur Wind Farm, which is capable of producing enough electricity to power around 220,000 Victorian households.

The $1 billion project became fully functional in January last year and is also the largest wind farm in the Southern Hemisphere with a capacity of 420 megawatts.

Getting people interested in wind power

Hydro Tasmania found mixed reactions to its plans to roll out a large-scale wind farm on King Island, which shows how people are still perhaps a little apprehensive of what these schemes involve.

An engagement process was initiated by the company to see what locals thought about the plans and was met with various responses.

Mr Davy noted how there had been "significant community debate" since the plans were initially revealed back in November 2012.

"Hydro Tasmania believed very strongly from the start that this was a project worth investigating and that the local community needed to be involved in the process," he commented.

"We wanted King Islanders to be given every opportunity to better understand what was being proposed. It is their island and their home."

The company has now decided to change its focus over the next 12 months and instead look to deliver alternative projects that will still reap clean energy advantages for local people.

Posted by Nikki Wilson-Everett