Hydro-electricity production harnesses the energy of flowing water. Large hydro-electric power stations generally use dams to store water until needed, while smaller-scale generation facilities use the natural flow of rivers. This is the most established and mature form of renewable energy.
Resources in Western Australia
Western Australia is relatively dry and flat with relatively few sites suitable for large-scale hydro-electric power generation.
There may be opportunities for small-scale ‘run of river’ hydro technologies to provide localised power generation in some areas of Western Australia.
Current use in Western Australia
Western Australia’s only commercial hydro-electric generator is the 30 megawatt power station at the Ord River Dam on Lake Argyle, completed in April 1996. This facility is the single biggest provider of renewable energy outside of the South West Interconnected System (Western Australia’s main electricity network).
The project involved construction of 132 kilovolt transmission lines that provide power to the towns of Kununurra and Wyndham, as well as the Argyle Diamond Mine.
In the 1950s, a hydroelectric power station – with a generating capacity of 2 megawatts – was built at Wellington Dam, near Collie in the south-west. The station is under care and maintenance, however the National Trust of Western Australia is investigating restoration and recommissioning of the facility.
Future use in Western Australia
New large-scale hydro power schemes are unlikely due to lack of suitable sites and environmental concerns regarding the flooding of large areas of land.
Energy companies are showing interest in smaller-scale hydro-energy schemes, providing an economic alternative to conventional energy sources in areas remote from the electricity grid.
Hydro power schemes can begin generating energy very quickly and only need a small number of staff to operate and maintain them.