Poatina Power Station. What an incredible experience! As you approach by road, marvel at the views of the Great Western Tiers. Board a bus. Descend to the power station through an underground tunnel. Find yourself in a 1960s time capsule. Admire the engineering, the monstrous turbines, and the feat of creating electricity.
I was not expecting interior design in a power station. In the mid-1960s, when Poatina Power Station was built, aesthetics was clearly a priority! A myrtle bannister runs the length of the station. A commissioned artwork keeps time on the tiled back wall. The walls of the generators are painted bright red. Brass trim on the floor plates signals a time that was just a little bit classy. Some of the machines even have original control panels.
It’s not all about the décor though. Step onto the floor plates near an operational turbine and you’ll feel the power of it as it turns below you. Study the original drawings of the turbines and of the station. Look three floors down to the water beneath you. Ask one of the staff about what it’s like to work on the turbines, just above the water, in a noisy cavern. Admire the parts on display, including a selection of giant spanners and a turbine.
The wonderful thing about Poatina power station is that it takes advantage of the lie of the land. From a 5.6km headrace tunnel in Great Lake above, through 1.8km of giant above-ground pipes, water falls 150m to the Poatina Station Turbines. Gravity does a lot of the work. In simple terms, the water hitting the turbines at speed causes them to spin, which creates electricity through a series of energy conversions (potential to kinetic to mechanical to magnetic to electrical).
What to Bring
Safety gear is provided by Hydro Tasmania but you’ll need to wear a long-sleeved top, long pants and sturdy, covered-in shoes. It was quite warm in the power station. When possible, it is kept at a constant temperature in order to keep the machinery running smoothly so you probably won’t need a jacket. You aren’t allowed to bring food, water or other personal belongings. You should bring your phone for photo-taking, however, there’s no phone reception down there.
Poatina Power Station is about a two-minute drive uphill from Poatina Village. From Launceston, head south through Longford and Cressy. Keep heading south, following signs for Poatina. I absolutely love driving on the road towards the Great Western Tiers. What a view! From Hobart, you can take the highway through Bothwell before descending to Poatina. You’ll have spectacular views of the midlands.
The lovely thing about Tasmania is that there are many free community events. Hydro Tasmania’s tours of Poatina Power Station may only happen occasionally but they are free and good quality. Keep an eye on Hydro Tasmania’s website and social media pages for more information about upcoming open days at power stations across Tasmania.