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Axe hangs over Nymboida power station

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Left: Flows discharged by the power station down the Goolang Creek – used by the local canoe centre and farmers – will be lost if the aging facility is permanently closed. Right: The turbines at the power station that generate power using flowing water.

Left: Flows discharged by the power station down the Goolang Creek – used by the local canoe centre and farmers – will be lost if the aging facility is permanently closed. Right: The turbines at the power station that generate power using flowing water.

 

Josh McMahon

 

Essential Energy is considering permanent closure of the 79-year-old Nymboida power station, but it isn’t just nostalgia for the historic facility that’s on the line.

The internationally renowned Nymboida Canoe Centre attracts in excess of 20,000 tourists to the Clarence Valley each year, but its existence hinges on operation of the power station and subsequent flows down the Goolang Creek.

Numerous farmers and residents downstream of the power station also rely upon the flows down the Goolang, for irrigation, watering cattle, and household supplies.

Essential Energy says that is reviewing the commercial viability of the aging power station, which has been closed for a number of months.

“As part of Essential Energy’s ongoing maintenance and refurbishment program, in May 2013 independent engineers commissioned to carry out routine testing at the station identified that a number of material components had reached end of life and a decision was taken to cease operations at the station,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

“Essential Energy is now investigating a number of options and issues, including whether the power station, which will remain closed in the interim, is commercially viable without significant capital injection.”

The Nymboida Hydro-Electric Scheme commenced operation in November 1924 and provided the Clarence Valley with all its power needs until 1950, when the Koolkhan coal-fired power station was commissioned to meet growing demand.

The power station continued to operate, in recent years extracting up to 900 megalitres a day from the Nymboida River, which is gravity-fed downhill to the power station through three pipelines. The water then flows at high pressure through hydro turbines coupled with alternators to generate 6,600 volts each machine. The water then flows out into the Goolang Creek. Six outdoor transformers increase the voltage to 66,000 volts and the energy then leaves the station via two transmission lines. Typically, the plant produces up to around 20 gigawatthours of electricity each year, but can vary greatly each year depending on river flows. The station provided enough environmentally friendly electricity to power in excess of 600 local homes, or around three per cent of the Clarence Valley’s energy needs.

Nymboida Canoe Centre operator, Rob Delderfield, is among those hoping that the power station keeps operating.

“We use the water coming out of the power station – that’s what our whole business is based upon,” Mr Delderfield said.

The power-station generated flows down the Goolang have been attracting white water canoeists from around world since the canoe centre was established in 1973. It has hosted state, Australian, and Commonwealth championships.

Mr Delderfield said more than 20,000 tourists were attracted to the Clarence Valley each year, who spent money in Grafton, Coutts Crossing, and Nymboida, on items such as fuel, ice, food, drinks, and gas.

It’s not only tourism, however, that would be affected by closure of the power station, according to Mr Delderfield.

“There are land owners, farmers from here to Grafton who rely on that water, for irrigation, and supply to homes,” he said.

Essential Energy has said it would take into consideration the views of those affected by the pending decision on the power station’s future.

“All options are complex and require consultation with a range of stakeholders. A comprehensive investigation and consultation process could take up to 12 months to complete,” the statement read.

Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis said he was aware of Essential Energy’s review of the power station, and he was looking into whether the facility could qualify for credits for its emission-free power generation.

“If they can get green credits, it might make it more viable. But I’m not pinning hopes on it – I’m just asking the question,” he said.

Mr Gulaptis said at this stage there was little else he could do.

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