SNOWY HYDRO AND THE SNOWY SCHEME
Snowy Hydro is one of Australia’s largest producers of renewable energy. The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme (known simply as the Snowy Scheme) is in its portfolio of assets that produce electricity for the national power grid. Located in the Australian Alps in New South Wales, the Snowy Scheme has nine hydro power stations including pumped storage at the Tumut 3 Power Station and the Jindabyne Pumping Station. The Scheme has a generating capacity of 4,100 megawatts (MW).
PUMPED STORAGE SCHEME
It is a hydroelectric power station with two dam reservoirs. One reservoir is located at a higher elevation than the other, with the power station located between them. Once water from the upper reservoir passes through the station to turn the turbines and generate electricity, it empties into the lower reservoir, ready to be pumped back up again. This means the water can be recycled through the power station and used over and over again.
Large volumes of water can be stored in the upper reservoir and used to generate energy on-demand to power homes and businesses within minutes, at peak times.
It is an expansion of the Snowy Scheme. It will provide the storage and on-demand generation needed to balance the growth of wind and solar power and the retirement of Australia’s ageing fleet of thermal power stations.
Snowy 2.0 will increase generation capacity by 2,000 megawatts (MW) and provide 175 hours of energy storage - enough to power the equivalent of 500,000 homes during peak demand. Snowy 2.0 will have a large-scale energy storage capacity of 350,000 MW hours. It can generate for up to 175 hours at full capacity without refilling.
It belongs to a broader effort on the part by Australia to increase the use of renewable resources for the production of electricity.
WHY IS IT NECESSARY?
Australia’s supply of electricity in the future will be increasingly generated by renewable sources such as wind and solar, as coal-fired power plants progressively retire. Most renewables are intermittent, so their generation doesn’t always coincide with the energy demands of households and businesses. Depending on weather conditions, there can also be long periods of low renewable energy output. For example, solar generation will be low if it rains for a few days. With its fast-start, clean hydro-power and large-scale energy storage, the pumped storage scheme works together with renewables by filling the gaps in generation and managing system instability. The combination of intermittent renewables, underpinned by on-demand generation by the pumped storage scheme, helps ensure that households and businesses have a reliable supply of electricity.
System security and reliability – large amounts of on-demand energy generation that can respond within minutes to changing market needs.
THE PROJECT’S BENEFITS
- Lower energy prices – putting downward pressure on future energy prices.
- Supporting renewables – Snowy 2.0 will physically and financially ‘firm’ renewables so they can enter into reliable supply contracts.
- Lowest cost option – if Snowy 2.0 was not built the likely alternative is a combination of gas peaking plants and commercial-scale batteries, which would cost at least twice as much.
- Scale and central location – Snowy 2.0 will be located between the major load centres of two biggest Australian cities of Sydney and Melbourne and central to planned renewable energy zones.
- Jobs and economic opportunities - up to 5,000 direct and indirect jobs across the Snowy Mountains region, providing opportunities for local businesses, improvements in local infrastructure and increased economic activity.