man testing quality of water

5 ways Hydro’s doing good (besides all the clean energy)

You might’ve heard that our parent company – Hydro Tasmania – is Australia’s largest renewable energy generator. But there’s a lot of cool stuff they get up to outside of hydropower generation that’s making a difference for people, places and… eels.

1. Eels and ladders

Pretend you’re a 10cm-long baby short-finned eel (I’ll wait). With adventure in your heart and a sea-shanty in your head, you start the migration from your Coral Sea breeding-ground to your Tasmanian feeding-grounds. That’s one hell of a journey.

I did the maths and the human-sized equivalent is swimming from Melbourne to Morocco and back again. Now after all that, imagine the disappointment you’d feel to arrive in Tasmania, just wanting to unpack and settle into your new digs, only to be met by an unscalable 50m dam wall blocking you from your forever home. Total bummer, right? Instant one-star review.

Luckily, the eel-fans at Hydro Tasmania solved this problem with an ‘elver ladder’. It’s just like a ladder but with studded matting to help stop eels from slipping back down. When they reach the top of the dam they fall gently into a holding tank – which is emptied every few hours into the lake. Here, our slippery little friends spend up to 20 years hanging out and growing upstream in lakes, rivers and creeks, before returning to the sea to spawn (via a chute in the dam wall, in case you were wondering).

2. Renewing the renewable

Hydro Tasmania has a whopping 30 hydropower stations operating in Tassie . It all started with a small power station in 1916 , and - thanks to electricity becoming a pretty big deal - grew to be what it is today.

Power station
Tarraleah power station could be getting an upgrade as part of the Battery of the Nation project.

Looking to the future, the plan is to use Tasmania’s hydropower superpower for what’s called the Battery of the Nation. The what of the what? Good question. Essentially, it’s all about taking existing hydropower assets and turning them into pumped hydro systems. Pumped hydro allows you to catch the water you’ve used to generate electricity, then (when energy demand is low), pump it back to where it came from. That way, when demand increases again, there’s water (or stored energy) ready to go.

Not only are you getting more out of the resource, you’re improving energy security because there’s less reliance on rainfall

3. Water they doing for you?

Hydro Tasmania is also Australia’s largest water manager – which is no surprise, given they move enough water to provide electricity to just about all of Tasmania. (If you’re wondering what that looks like, it’s about 27 Sydney Harbours per year.)

On top of turning rainfall into clean, renewable energy, they also make sure people can do the watery things they love. That means keeping rivers and lakes primed for fishing, watersports – even the odd rowing championship. Of course, this is all done with the help of environment teams who advocate for our aquatic stakeholders too.

Water sampling
Taking a water sample to see if Great Lake as great as they say.

And for those who like to keep their feet on dry land (we can’t blame you, it’s chilly down south), Hydro Tasmania also manages some of the areas surrounding their waterways, which means hikers, campers and general landlubbers are taken care of too.

4. Giving new life to crayfish

We all have that friend who’s a bit of an Ombrastacoides Parvicaudatus – you know, the ones that crawl under a rock and go missing for 11 years? No? Maybe that’s just us.

It was certainly the case for one of the teams at Entura (Hydro Tasmania’s other child and our sister company) when they uncovered the short-tailed rain crayfish, a species that hadn’t been recorded since 2009. Two. Thousand. And. Nine. That’s when Obama took office. That’s when Kanye told Taylor Swift ‘I’mma let you finish’ at the Video Music Awards. But I digress.

Working alongside environmental consultants ECOtas, the team came across the long un-spotted cray within minutes of mooring. And it was a good thing too – although it had been recognised as a species years before, scientists were still keen to make sure it really was separate from other crayfish species. (For the curious: it is.)

What’s especially good about this crayfish revival is it confirms that the area is being managed in a way that allows these kinds of critters to thrive

5. Hydropower, girl power

As a major employer of engineers, Hydro Tasmania knows how important it is to strive for a gender balance in a field that’s still overwhelmingly male

Hydro Tasmania Woman
Putting female engineers front and centre helps tackle the perception that engineering is a boy’s club.

That’s why they’ve started forging positive inroads everywhere, from their primary and secondary school program – Generation Hydro – to their scholarships for young women starting their engineering qualification.

The programs are all about encouraging young women to see that there’s a place for them in the industry. It’s the same reason they shine a light on the experiences of female graduates and cadets on their blog – the more exposure young girls get to other women in engineering, the easier it becomes to imagine themselves doing the same thing.

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