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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Blackout threat averted: State spends $37m on gas-powered generators from US

The Mercury: Blackout threat averted: State spends $37m on gas-powered generators from US [24aug05]

THE threat of power blackouts this summer and autumn has faded with the decision by the State Government to buy four extra gas-powered electricity generators from the United States.

The second-hand generators, costing $37 million, will be bought by Hydro Tasmania and installed in an extension of the Bell Bay power station north of Launceston.

Together they will add an extra 105 megawatts of power to the Tasmanian electricity system, alleviating the risk posed by record low water storage levels across the state to reliable supplies of hydro-electricity.

Premier Paul Lennon told Parliament yesterday that buying the gas generators was a cost-effective and environmentally-sound solution to a power-shortage problem which was putting at risk the reliable and sustained production of some of the state's biggest industries.

With water storages now at just 30 per cent of capacity -- this time last year they held 45 per cent -- the state had already asked big business to investigate ways of cutting back their power demands

is understood the request had not met with great enthusiasm or positive responses from Tasmania's biggest power users, such as Comalco and Zinifex.

The Government was also concerned about power blackouts for domestic consumers in late summer and early autumn, when dams and lakes are at their lowest levels.

"This is a prudent step to protect Tasmania's energy supplies during a time of abnormally low rainfall," Mr Lennon said.

"The alternative was diesel generators based on the West Coast and I was not prepared to have highly-polluting diesel generators on the edge of our West Coast wilderness with an endless convoy of fuel trucks to service them."

As long as the decision to buy the new generators is approved by Parliament this week, the new gas turbines should be operational by January.

The three generators -- and one spare one -- will complement the two large generators already in power production at Bell Bay.



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