The combination of mountains and lots of water gives Tasmania an advantage over much of the rest of Australia. It was this combination that led to Tasmania being the location of the first hydroelectric power station in Australia—in fact, the first in the Southern Hemisphere and among the first few in the world. Tasmania seemed such a promising location for generating electricity that hydroelectric power stations kept being built until that fateful 1970s proposal to dam the Gordon River. Public opinion stopped that project and the threat of flooding the astonishing wilderness through which the river cuts. However, plenty of dams had been built before then—enough that Tasmania makes a significant contribution to meeting the electrical needs of mainland Australia.
Most of the dams and power stations are in remote areas. Some have been built underground, so they can’t be seen and don’t spoil the scenery. One could visit Tasmania and hardly be aware of them—unless one went looking for them. However, we did go looking for them, and because I love seeing how things work, love going behind the scenes and seeing the mechanisms behind things, I was delighted. We visited the historic Tarraleah Power Station. This station opened in 1938 and is the oldest power station still operating in Tasmania. Despite its age, it has one of the highest energy outputs in the state. The huge turbine engines were impressive, and hearing them hum as they turned the rushing water into electricity was exciting.