Harnessing the power of hydro in Tasmania

2017-12-11 - ABB’s UNITROL® 6000 excitation systems support renewable energy production across the Australian island, with data-driven technology that enhances operator effectiveness.

As the driest inhabited continent on earth, Australia is not naturally associated with hydroelectric power generation. However in Tasmania, an island state located 240 kilometers to the south of the Australian mainland, hydro energy provides much of the state’s electricity. In fact, Tasmania is one of the two main regions in Australia that account for the majority of the country’s hydroelectricity generation capacity – the other being the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales – as they are the areas of highest rainfall and elevation.

Tasmania has been harnessing the power of water for over a century, opening one of the first hydroelectric power stations in the southern hemisphere with the Duck Reach Power Station in the late 19th century. This was later taken over by the company that became the current Hydro Tasmania, a government-owned business and Australia’s largest producer of renewable energy. Since those early days, Hydro Tasmania has built 30 hydropower stations and two major wind farms. It produces about 9,000 gigawatt hours of electricity from hydropower every year, enough to power about 900,000 homes and small businesses.

Remote operation for remote locations

ABB has delivered a number of products for Hydro Tasmania’s numerous power stations over the years, including excitation systems, transformers and protection relays. Late last year, ABB installed 11 new UNITROL® 6000 Static Excitation Systems (SES), along with 10 excitation transformers, across seven Hydro Tasmania locations, replacing a number of legacy excitation systems. Excitation is the process by which a magnetic field – which is required by a plant’s generators – is created by means of an electric current. To date, Hydro Tasmania has bought over 30 UNITROL 6000 units and recently placed an order for 15 more.

The 11 UNITROL 6000 SES units installed last year use digital capabilities to enhance operator effectiveness. ABB provided the excitation systems with network connection capability, so they can be monitored and opera­ted remotely from Hydro Tasmania’s office in Hobart. Remote grid code compliance tests, for example, can be conducted from Hobart to check the conformance of some of the 60 generators installed. This means that on-site compliance tests now only have to be carried out every eight years, rather than the previous four. Such remote activities also save up to eight hours’ return trip for some stations alongside offering the financial benefit of engineers not having to travel to plants.

“The remote diagnostics capability allows Hydro Tasmania to monitor the condition of the excitation systems in order to do any initial trou­bleshooting if required without being required to travel to site,” underlines Adam Grabek from Hydro Tasmania. Real-time data collection and converting that data into actionable insights is a hallmark of ABB Ability™ solutions. With a century of power generation experience and a focus on digitalization-driven progress, ABB is planting its roots to the future.

Expanded hydropower system, more sustainable future

As Australia moves towards ever greater use of clean energy, the role of Tasmania’s hydropower could become more significant. Earlier this year, the Australian Government announced plans to investigate expanding Tasmania’s hydropower system, including potentially redeveloping one of Hydro Tasmania’s oldest power stations, adding an extra turbine to another, and exploring new pumped storage hydro opportunities around the state that could deliver up to 2,500 megawatts of pumped storage generation capacity. Large storage devices like batteries and pumped storage hydro will become more important as Australia seeks to replace coal-fired power and get more energy from other sources, including solar and wind.

“Today’s power sector is seeing unprecedented changes, including a rise in renewable energy production,” states Kevin Kosisko, Managing Director of ABB’s Power Generation & Water business. “ABB’s digital control technologies and deep domain expertise help our customers keep pace with these shifts – and for Hydro Tasmania, our technologies are helping take its operations into the future and supporting a more sustainable energy network for Australia.”

ABB (ABBN: SIX Swiss Ex) is a pioneering technology leader in electrification products, robotics and motion, industrial automation and power grids, serving customers in utilities, industry and transport & infrastructure globally. Continuing more than a 125-year history of innovation, ABB today is writing the future of industrial digitalization and driving the Energy and Fourth Industrial Revolutions. ABB operates in more than 100 countries with about 136,000 employees www.abb.com