8 Hydropower Facts: Feel Good About Getting Your Electricity Connected
When you think of hydropower, there are probably a few things that spring to mind – renewable, clean, domestic, affordable, low-cost, and sustainable to name a few. But hydro is taking off in Australia and making an impact in some surprising areas, far beyond just being the country’s third biggest renewable electricity provider.
We have compiled this list of the unexpected things that we love about hydro!
First a little background
If you’re thinking “this all sounds great, but what on earth is hydropower?” here’s the lowdown. It is the process of generating electricity using falling or flowing water from reservoirs, rivers, streams or waterfalls as the primary source. The water is channelled through turbines to produce electricity for your new electricity connection.
It is a renewable energy source because it is inexhaustible as long as the water cycle continues to flow. Hydropower stations also have a very small environmental footprint, compared to coal or oil, making it one of the cleanest energy sources available.
Hydropower is an important alternative to fossil fuels in the fight against climate change. It also provides a domestic source of power to help create a self-sufficient energy market in Australia. This could protect our future energy prices by removing our dependence on expensive imports.
There are two main hydropower plants in Australia.
1. The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric scheme
The country’s largest hydro scheme is the Snowy Mountain scheme in NSW. It is made up of sixteen dams, seven power stations, a pumping station, 145 km of trans-mountain tunnels and 80km of aqueducts. It produces around half of Australia’s total hydropower, with a capacity of 3,800MW.
Snowy Hydro owns two electricity retailers to sell their energy to customers – Red Energy and Lumo Energy. When you compare energy plans, take a look at these retailers if you are interested in powering your home while supporting a renewable source.
2. Hydro Tasmania
Much of Tasmania’s electricity comes from hydropower, through an integrated scheme that includes six major water catchments, 50 major dams, numerous lakes and 29 power stations. The scheme has a capacity of over 2,600MW. This is used to power Tasmania, then the excess is fed into the National Energy Market (NEM) via the Basslink – an undersea interconnector that connects Tasmania to the mainland.
Hydro Tasmania owns Momentum Energy. If you are moving home electricity, compare electricity plans from Momentum for an affordable and clean way to power your home.
Now that you know a little bit about hydropower, let us surprise you with these little-known benefits!
1. There are over 100 plants in Australia
Given that Australia has vast regions of drought-prone desert, you would be forgiven for thinking that we’re not suited to hydropower. Well, the reality is that Australia has over 100 hydropower plants in the areas with the highest rainfall – mostly NSW and Tas – producing a massive 7800 megawatts (MW).
In fact, hydropower, along with solar power, is a key element in driving Australia towards the Renewable Energy Target (RET) of 82% renewable energy by 2030. So the next time you’re moving your electricity connection, you might be supporting the clean energy movement.
2. Flexible and immediate power source
Renewable energy is often difficult to control. For example, solar power is dependent on the sun, so it cannot be used as a reliable backup energy source incase demand peaks on a cloudy day. While advances in battery storage are addressing this issue, there is still a way to go. Hydropower, however, is the exception. With the use of dams and storage technology, energy generated through hydropower can be scaled up or down in response to demand.
3. An effective method of flood control
With water flowing into huge dams from existing waterways, hydropower can manage the speed and total flow of water very precisely. This means that, even in times of extreme rainfall, rivers, lakes and dams can be managed to avoid flooding. Hydropower also helps to drain otherwise stagnant marshy lands.
4. Provides irrigation
With their carefully managed water sources, hydropower stations are the perfect partners for irrigation needs. Their reservoirs can be used as water reserves in times of drought, thanks to the nature of hydropower which produces clean water as a waste product.
Dams can also be opened and managed to support crop cycles with a consistent supply of water to their irrigation systems. Add to this the fact that hydropower generation doesn’t actually consume any water (all the water is returned to the dams and rivers) and it’s hard to find a downside!
5. Managing more than just water
As well as the water itself, hydropower plants manage the areas around their water, which are often spots of extreme natural beauty. They take such good care of these areas that they are often a go-to location for camping, holidays and days out.
So much so that if you take a peek at the Hydro Tasmania website, you will find a whole section dedicated to Things To Do in the areas they manage. You can choose from hikes, historic heritage sites, fishing, camping, water sports, scenic drives, power station tours and so much more!
6. Support for aquatic ecosystems
It’s easy to assume that an industry powered by churning up water into high turbines might not be the best of friends with the local water life. But how wrong you would be! Hydropower companies go to great lengths to create and maintain a healthy ecosystem in their waterways, it is in their best interests after all! Some examples of the work they do include:
- Eel migration – Hydro Tasmania have installed studded matting to help eels migrate from the Coral Sea. The mats help eels travel uphill, over the dam walls, to their breeding grounds in Tasmania. At the top of the ‘ladders’ holding tanks protect the eels, which are let out every few hours into the lake.
- Rich vegetation – by storing water in lakes and dams, the surrounding areas benefit from healthy vegetation which in turn brings more wildlife to the area.
- Fish – as part of their dedication to providing recreational facilities at their sites, hydropower stations keep their lakes and rivers brimming with fish. This helps to maintain a healthy ecosystem and clean water for a range of water sports as well as some of the country’s best fishing spots.
7. Generation Hydro is educating girls and creating workplace equality
Hydropower is a growing industry and is making huge advances in efficiency and capacity through innovation and exceptional design. Recognising that talented engineers are the key to their future success, the hydro industry is taking huge steps to support the education of STEM subjects.
Hydro Tasmania has created Generation Hydro, an education program that “allows teachers to harness the resources of Hydro Tasmania to get their students excited about STEM”. In particular, Generation Hydro encourages girls to take up STEM subjects by providing them with role models in their engineering teams.
8. Mini hydro plants are a reality
You’ve heard of solar panels in your home, but a personal hydro plant probably seems a bit far-fetched. Well, believe it or not, technology is advancing at such a rate that Mini Hydro plants, designed for domestic and hyper-local use, are now a reality.
Although not yet common in Australia, other parts of the world, such as rural areas of Italy, have made mini-hydro a reality. Read more about the Mini-Hydro Italia project here.
Getting hydropower from your power supplier
If you are moving homes and researching the best new property electricity and gas connections, you could be wondering how you can access hydropower for your home.
The two main hydropower generators have retail arms, which can be a great place to start. Snowy Hydro owns Red Energy and Lumo Energy, while Hydro Tasmania owns Momentum Energy. Connecting electricity and gas with a plan from one of these retailers is a great way to support Australian hydropower.
In addition, every hydropower station is connected to the NEM, meaning that you can access hydropower through every Australian energy retailer. Although It is not possible to know exactly which energy source your power is coming from, many retailers have add-ons so you know you are supporting renewables.
We like EnergyAustralia’s PureEnergy option. This GreenPower accredited scheme lets you choose the percentage of power you would like to come from renewable sources for as little as $1.61 per month.
If you are moving house, give us a call to take advantage of our 100% free moving utilities services. Our energy experts can discuss renewable energy options and compare plans from some of Australia’s leading electricity providers to save you money on your bills.
Call 1300 786 045 or enter your details online to get started and connect now.