Barron Gorge Hydro – Green Power for Over 70 Years

Hi folks

I wanted to put something up to give you an idea of what we are attempting to do with this blog. I was going to find some novel Green Power device that you could make yourselves, but I’ll save that for another time.

Today I’m going to introduce you to Australia’s first underground hydro power plant. I picked this one because it has been around longer than the Snowy Mountains scheme, and has caused minimal environmental damage.
Barron Gorge Hydro Entrance
Back in 1906, some foresighted engineer suggested that the Barron Gorge in Far North Queensland (just out of Cairns), would be a great place for a Hydro-Electric Power Station. It took nearly 30 years for the idea to become reality. Since 1935, the Barron Gorge Hydro facility has been generating clean, green electricity to supplement the State power grid. The original site was decommissioned in the early sixties after a new plant was constructed further downstream.

Water is sourced from the Barron River. In flood, the gorge is impressive:

Barron Gorge Falls in full flow

A few factoids:

Australia’s first underground power station

Most Northern power station in the State

Generates 60 Megawatts through two turbines. Enough to power about 36000 homes

Saves 260000 tonnes of potential Greenhouse gas emissions a year

Barron Gorge Hydro is owned by the Stanwell Corporation

(Barron Gorge images sourced from here)

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3 Comments

  1. Bob said,

    September 26, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    I was against the huge James Bay Hydro project here as it flooded a lot of indian lands but it was still a much better energy choice then nuclear or coal…

    all that needs to be taken into consideration more is location..
    it needs to be done where less land is damaged and eminent domain is never/rarely used…

    • Tina said,

      September 26, 2010 at 10:31 pm

      Hey Bob… good to see you here. For the benefit of everyone else, I’ll just mention that you live in Canada.

      Now… this is my take when it comes to hydro power. It’s good as long as the natural surrounding environment isn’t grossly affected… and preferably not affected at all, if possible. There are plenty of permanent water ways (rivers, creeks, waterfalls, rapids, the ocean, etc) that can be sensibly used without building a huge dam and flooding a great area of land. We were using water wheels for centuries… it’s not that we need an advanced technology to take advantage of our surrounding environment. We should be able to use the same principle today, at least on a smaller scale. I have read of one family in the Daintree who use a small water turbine in a nearby creek to power their home. For 9 months of the year the creek is running, and provides all of their power needs. During the dry season they run a generator.

      We’ve had a fairly recent dam battle here in Oz too… the planned damming of the Mary River, down near Gympie. There was a huge battle because of a number of reasons… the land in the area is beautifully productive land, many people would have their land resumed by the government, and of course, there was the environmental damage. For example, the Mary is the home to an ancient lung fish species… truly a living fossil. This fish does not live in any other waterways and their natural habitat would have been grossly changed. In this particular case, the protesters won.

      Now, another reason that I was particularly against the building of this dam is that I believe it’s unnecessary to build another dam at all. Yes, SE QLD is growing at a great rate and currently doesn’t have the water allocation that they really need. But they have several perfectly good catchment areas right now… the problem seems to be keeping them full. So, how do you do that if we don’t get a good rain for a few years?

      Why not build a de-salination plant on the coast and pipe water in? It’s not really that far and (technically) you could keep all the catchment areas topped up… even in times of drought. Maybe it’s just me… but I think that would make more sense than drowning land that could be used to grow food… graze cattle… etc.

      As for our options… it’s a much better choice than nuclear or coal. It’s by no means a new technology, and it has been proven to work very well with minimal effects to the environment. After 70 odd years of producing reliable power to the surrounding area, I think the Barron Gorge project (for one) has proven this.

  2. GOF said,

    October 15, 2010 at 8:18 am

    I agree with your sentiments. This project is just down the road from me but I was unaware of all these facts. Thank you.


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