A history of hydropower

Hydro Tasmania Photo

There was a charming little article on HydroWorld.com last week, featuring the forthcoming 100th anniversary of the hydropower sector in Australia’s Tasmania.

The centenary recognises the creation of the original Hydro Electric Department in October 1914. This was later known as the Hydro-Electric Commission, the Hydro-Electric Corporation and now as Hydro Tasmania but more commonly as ‘the Hydro’ by locals.

It seems Hydro Tasmania is attempting to locate children featured in a photograph of a school visit to the Tarraleah hydropower facility back in 1935, ahead of the plant’s commissioning in 1938.

The children of workers at the site who attended Tarraleah school, Hydro Tasmania wants to discover their identities, find out if any are alive or have family in the State and recognise their role in Hydro’s history.

As Hydro Tasmania’s Lara Van den Berg explains, the photo was included in the Hydro’s oral history book Ticklebelly Tales, which was re-released last year. Van den Berg says: “The photo reflects a time when thousands of Tasmanians lived in Hydro villages constructed to cater for the workers and their families throughout the development of Tasmania’s world-famous hydropower system.”

She added: “The stories of the people who built the Hydro and made it what it is today are central to the Centenary celebrations. We would love to discover these children’s stories and make them part of the event.”

Where ever they are now, the children in the photograph are all old men and women and in their dotage. Perhaps though, they will be able to recall a long distant visit to the hydro plant when they were still at school. And with a twinkle in the eye, illuminated with power supplied by that same plant, they may tell the tale as they tuck their grandchildren in at night.

This may sound overly sentimental, but the point is that hydropower really is the only form power generation which can stretch across multiple generations. Even coal-fired power stations have a lifespan of only 40-50 years or less so, where it is built, hydropower is built to last.

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