Human settlements

Renewable energy

Hydro 01: Generation from canals as part of water management in southern New South Wales

Renewable Energy Commercialisation in Australia, Australian Greenhouse Office, 2003
NOTE: The status of these projects will have changed since the time of publication, and project contacts may also have changed.

To produce clean, renewable power from the energy component of water, Pacific Hydro has developed Australia's first hydroelectric scheme that uses an irrigation channel.

Water is one of the most precious commodities in Australia which is, after Antarctica, the driest continent on the planet. The efficient use of water is therefore of prime importance and, where water is used for irrigation or other commercial purposes, maximising energy potential can be an important factor within the overall water management scheme.

With the assistance of a $1 million grant under the Renewable Energy Commercialisation Program, Pacific Hydro Limited has developed Australia's first hydroelectric scheme that uses an irrigation channel. Pacific Hydro operates the scheme on the largest water delivery channel in Australia, the Mulwala canal in southern New South Wales. This irrigation canal supplies 2,600 farms and is active for 10 to 11 months each year.

Hydro system using an irrigation channel

Pacific Hydro proposes to generate clean, renewable electricity without affecting the irrigation or mitigation potential of the canal water. The project will improve the water conveyance system, and provide an incentive for further improvements such as a mid-channel holding pond.

The first stage of the project has been constructed, with generation commencing in November 2002 from a 2MW facility capable of accepting flows of up to 70m3/s at a location known as 'The Drop'. The Drop is a control structure that regulates flows into the Mulwala and Berrigan canals.

A second location, Edwards Escape, controls bypass flows down the Edwards River near Deniliquin. Some of the water that passes through The Drop also passes through the Edwards Escape facility, with the result that the same water can be used twice to generate electricity. It is proposed to deepen the outlet channel by about 3 metres and provide for an operating head of up to 9.5 metres delivering about 1.3MW. The existing escape channel is suffering from siltation and bank erosion. This will be corrected and enhanced with improved batters.

Energy that would otherwise be lost within the channel is captured with low-head turbines that operate within the water management system. No water is lost and the system is tied into existing control structures to ensure continuity of flows. Up to 3.3MW of electricity can be generated from two small hydroelectric power facilities, giving this project the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emission by about 20,000 tonnes each year.

An additional benefit will be the increased protection from erosion provided to an historic farmhouse (still in use), which overlooks the escape channel and Edwards River. Canal water currently being diverted over a spillway will be sent through a turbine, which will dissipate the water energy prior to sending it down the channel to the Edwards River.

By demonstrating the value of better water management, this scheme will provide a commercialisation platform for other such projects in Australia.

For more information please contact

Murray Chopping
Pacific Hydro Limited
Level 8, 474 Flinders Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel (03) 9620 4400
Fax (03) 9620 4433

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