MORTLAKE’S $800 million gas-fired power station is finally paying for itself — eight years after the project was first planned.
It ran at peak 550-megawatt output for the first time last Thursday when Victoria’s electricity demand hit a record November peak in heatwave conditions and will continue to play a vital role, especially during high summer demands.
The Origin Energy station on Connewarren Lane, adjacent to a main high-voltage transmission line, was officially opened yesterday by Premier Ted Baillieu, who described it as “one of the most seminal days Victoria has had for a long time”.
He traced the project’s heritage back to energy market reforms implemented by the former Kennett government about two decades ago.
“This plant will be part of Victoria’s core infrastructure and will contribute to growth in the long run,” Mr Baillieu said.
“There have been years of decision making and courage to make big investments.
“This project might not have happened had it not been for deregulation in the ’90s by the Kennett government.”
Origin’s managing director Grant King said the company began acquiring land at Mortlake in 2004 and chose the site based on its proximity to the transmission line and to the company’s offshore natural gas fields.
A dedicated 83-kilometre gas pipeline was constructed from near Port Campbell and Wannon Water supplies recycled water into the plant.
“It took eight years to complete and will be 25 years to make a return,” Mr King said.
“Plants like these are needed to run hard in peak demand, to balance out supply.”
“We are looking forward to 25 to 30 years of this power station in its current form.”
The station, which has been generating since mid year, has so far operated for about 3500 hours at 50 per cent capacity, Origin’s chief executive of energy marketing Frank Calabria said.
Both its turbine generators were at full capacity last Thursday.
“There is prospect for base-load capacity, but it’s designed more to run for peak load demands,” Mr Calabria said.
The project employed more than 350 people during construction and operates with nine full-time staff, who monitor and maintain the facility.
It can be fired up remotely by computer from Sydney or Melbourne, according to demand allocations by the national electricity market.
Regional Cities Minister and South West Coast MP Denis Napthine said the station was a significant investment for the south-west, using its main grid line and local gas reserves.
Energy and Resources Minister Michael O’Brien said the station would give Victoria a safer and more reliable power supply this summer.