Any trades in Australia

Find a plumber the easy way

Where do you need plumbers?

1
Tell us
what you need

2
Plumbers
contact you

3
You choose the best
plumber

The Ultimate Guide to The Snowy Mountain Hydro Scheme

Last Updated Sep 14, 2018 · Written by Philippa Land


  1. The Snowy Mountain Hydro Scheme

  2. Renewable Energy

  3. Assets and Developments

  4. Engineering

  5. The Workers

  6. A Timeline of the Snow Mountain Hydro Scheme

  7. Snowy Hydro Scheme Today

The Snowy Mountain Hydro Scheme

The Snowy Mountain Hydro Scheme is a water and hydro-electric power utility in the Australian Southern Alps. The scheme releases water into the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers, diverting the headwaters of the Snowy, Eucumbene and Murrumbidgee Rivers west through the Great Dividing Range. It is designed to counteract the effects of severe droughts and raise productivity in the Murray Darling Basin by collecting and storing water to be used for the town water supply, irrigation, and environmental use. The scheme aides in the production of approximately $3 billion worth of agricultural products per year, around 40% of Australia’s total agricultural production.

Renewable Energy

While water collection was the original purpose of the build, it was not lost on the engineers that there was great potential for the generation of hydro-electricity. Through the sale of the hydro-electricity, the government was able to pay for the incredible engineering feat, making the scheme a reality. As it directs water through a series of power stations 800m down the western escarpment, it generates generous amounts of electricity to meet daily demand in eastern Australia.

The Snowy Mountain Hydro Scheme currently provides approximately 32% of all available renewable energy to the eastern Australian grid, helping to light up Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane and Adelaide through the National Electricity Grid running from the Rockhampton’s to the east coast of Adelaide and Tasmania. The Scheme generates around 4500 megawatts of hydro-electricity.

Guthega Power Station – The Ultimate Guide to the Snowy Mountain Hydro Scheme

Guthega Power Station
Photo Credit: MD111

Assets and Developments

The Snowy Mountain Hydro Scheme consists of nine power stations:

  1. Murray 1
  2. Murray 2
  3. Blowering
  4. Guthega
  5. Tumut 1
  6. Tumut 2
  7. Tumut 3
  8. Jounama Small Hydro Power Station
  9. Jindabyne Mini Hydro Power Station

It includes one pumping station at Jindabyne and a pump storage capability at Tumut 3 Power Station. It consists of 16 major dams that have a combined storage capacity of 7,000GL, almost 12 times the volume of Sydney Harbour. The Scheme also consists of 145km of inter-connected tunnels and pipelines, 80km of aqueducts and 33 hydro-electric turbines with a combined generating capacity of 4,100MW.

There are 2 main developments in the Snowy Mountain Hydro Scheme.

The Snowy-Murray Development

The Snowy-Murray Development has 4 power stations, 17 generating units and 1 pumping station. Water in this development is diverted from the upper Snowy River through Guthega Dam at the Guthega Power Station and back into Island Bend Dam. During high inflows, water is diverted to Lake Eucumbene for storage before being transferred to the River Murray catchment. During low inflows, water is diverted to Geehi Reservoir through a trans-mountain tunnel, with water transferred back from Lake Eucumbene.

Jindabyne Pumping Station pumps water from the lake (generally during off-peak times) into Geehi Reservoir. The Mini-hydro Power Station enables Snowy Hydro to recover a small amount of electricity from some of the environmental releases made from Jindabyne Dam into the Snowy River.

The water from Geehi Reservoir, the Geehi River, Island Bend and Eucumbene goes through Murray 1 and Murray 2 power stations. Khancoban Dam regulates the water released from Murray 2 Power Station to Swampy Plains River, a tributary of the upper Murray River.

The Snowy-Tumut Development

The Snowy-Tumut Development has 5 power stations and 16 generating units. It collects the headwaters from the upper Murrumbidgee, Tooma and Eucumbene rivers. This water is then transferred to Tumut Pond Dam, joining the waters of the Tumut River, diverting through to Tumut 1 and Tumut 2 power stations before joining the Talbingo Reservoir. The water then goes through the Tumut 3 Power Station and into Jounama Pondage.

There are 3 generating units at Tumut 3 that are used to pump water from Jounama Pondage back into Talbingo Reservoir, essentially ‘recycling’ the water. Water is released from Jounama Dam into Blowering Reservoir through the Jounama Small Hydro Power Station or the radial release gates at Jounama Dam. Water releases from Blowering Dam are controlled by NSW State Water, providing town water supply, extractive and environmental use requirements.

Engineering

The Snowy Mountain Hydro Scheme is considered one of the modern civil engineering marvels of the world. It is the largest engineering project undertaken in Australia to date. The scheme was finished on time and on budget, costing $820 million, the equivalent of approximately $6.5 billion today. It required the skill and planning of tens of thousands of workers. Engineers on the project needed to be innovative, finding new ways to meet the challenges of building the scheme.

Perhaps the most significant advances in the construction of the scheme were the rock bolting technique, a safer and cheaper alternative to concrete lining to support rock in tunnel walls. The engineers were able to create a structural arch with the technique to hold the rock, rather than simply using individual rock bolts as pins. The new tunneling and construction methods used by the engineers on the project revolutionised the industry around the world.

In 1967 the American Society of Civil Engineers rated the Snowy Mountain Scheme as one of the civil engineering wonders of the modern world. This world-class approach to engineering has continued throughout the operation and maintenance of the scheme, essentially ensuring the reliability of the scheme for hundreds of more years to come.

The Ultimate Guide to the Snowy Mountain Hydro Scheme

Cabramurra Town – Snowy Hydro Scheme Town – 1959
Photo credit: Aussle~Mobs

The Workers

During construction, 7 regional townships and over 100 temporary camps were set up to service the 100,000 workers and their families who built the scheme. Many men spent harsh winters in canvas tents with only basic amenities and provisions in the first few years. Community centres and health facilities were established in the nearby towns.

Around 65% of the workers were migrants, escaping war-torn Europe to begin a new life in Australia. While the scheme had many safety precautions in place (including wearing seatbelts before it was required by law), 121 lives were lost over its construction. While the scheme is considered a great feat of engineering, it is also thought of as a great social achievement as the migrants represented over 30 different nationalities. The scheme’s multi-national workforce contributes to the cultural mix of Australia today.

A Timeline of the Snowy Mountain Hydro Scheme

1884

Diversion of water from the Snowy River to Murrumbidgee River begins.

1944

A committee of Commonwealth and State representatives is formed to examine the water resources of the Snowy Mountains area.

1949

The Commonwealth Parliament passes The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act 1949 (the Act), establishing the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority.

1949

Construction begins as Governor General, Sir William McKell, Prime Minister Ben Chifley and Willian Hudson fire the blast at Adaminaby.

1951

The Snowy launches a study to find the most economical system for power transmission.

1955

Construction of the Blowering power station is complete.

1955

Construction of the Guthega Dam is complete.

1955

Construction of the Guthega power station is complete.

1955

Construction of the Guthega tunnel is complete.

1955

The first power from the scheme begins to flow from the Guthega power station.

1958

The Thiess Brothers become the first Australian company to win a major contract on the Snowy.

1958

Construction of Eucumbene Dam is complete.

1959

Construction of the Tumut 1 power station is complete.

1959

Construction of Tumut Pond Dam is complete.

1959

Construction of Happy Jacks Dam is complete.

1959

Construction of the Eucumbene-Tumut tunnel is complete.

1959

Construction of the Tumut 1 Pressure tunnel is complete.

1959

Construction of the Tumut 1 Tailwater tunnel is complete.

1960

“Snowcom”, Australia’s first transistorised computer, designed by the University of Sydney is delivered to the Authority’s scientific offices.

1960

Construction of Tantangara Dam is complete.

1961

Construction of Tooma Dam is complete.

1961

Construction of Tumut 2 Dam is complete.

1961

Construction of Deep Creek Dam is complete.

1961

Construction of the Murrumbidgee-Eucumbene tunnel is complete.

1961

Construction of the Tooma-Tumut tunnel is complete.

1961

Construction of the Tumut 2 Pressure & Tailwater is complete.

1962

Construction of the Tumut 2 power station is complete.

1965

Construction of Island Bend Dam is complete.

1965

Construction of the Eucumbene-Snowy tunnel is complete.

1966

Construction of Geehi Dam is complete.

1966

Construction of Khancoban Dam is complete.

1966

Construction of the Snowy-Geehi tunnel is complete.

1966

Construction of the Murray 1 Pressure tunnel is complete.

1967

Construction of Jindabyne Dam is complete.

1967

The American Society of Civil Engineers rates the Snowy Mountains Scheme as one of the civil engineering wonders of the modern world.

1967

Construction of the Murray 1 power station is complete.

1968

Construction of Jounama Dam is complete.

1968

Construction of Blowering Dam is complete.

1968

Construction of Murray 2 Dam is complete.

1968

Construction of the Jindabyne-Island Ben tunnel is complete.

1969

Construction of the Murray 2 power station is complete.

1969

Construction of the Murray 2 Pressure tunnel is complete.

1970

Construction of Talbingo Dam is complete.

1973

Construction of the Tumut 3 power station is complete.

1974

Construction of The Snowy Mountain Hydro Scheme is completed.

1997

Snowy Hydro Trading is established by the New South Wales Government and the State Electricity Commission of Victoria.

1999

Craig Ingram becomes an independent member for Gippsland and forces a political agreement to restore up to 28% of the flow of the Snowy through Gippsland.

2000

The Commonwealth formally joins SHTPL as a shareholder of Snowy Hydro Trading.

2002

The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority is corporatised, resulting in the merger of the Authority and SHTPL to become Snowy Hydro Limited.

2004

Cooling water hydro generators with a capacity of 120kW each are installed at Tumut 3 Power Station.

2009

Construction of the Jindabyne Mini Hydropower station is complete.

2010

Construction of the Jounama Small Hydropower station is complete.

2012

Tumut 3 power station is upgraded.

2017

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull reveals plans for a $2 billion expansion of the Snowy Hydro Scheme.

 

The Snowy River, Guthega Power Station – The Ultimate Guide to the Snowy Mountain Hydro Scheme

The Snowy River near Guthega Power Station
Photo Credit: MD111

Snowy Hydro Scheme Today

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull revealed plans last year for a $2 billion expansion of the Snowy Mountain Hydro Scheme. Dubbed The Snowy Mountains Scheme 2.0, the plan is to increase the current 4,500-megawatt output (almost 14% of Australia’s current renewable energy target) by 50% to help prevent power shortages in eastern Australia.

“This will ultimately mean cheaper power prices and more money in the pockets of Australians,” he said.

“The unprecedented expansion will help make renewables reliable, filling in holes caused by intermittent supply and generator outages.”

“It will enable greater energy efficiency and help stabilise electricity supply into the future.”

It is the first major expansion planned for the development. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency will lead the project. The agency has warned of long lead times of up to 7 years.

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg stated, “This is a game-changing announcement, something that is iconic in Australia, namely the Snowy Hydro Scheme and I think it should be welcomed by all Australians.”

But not everyone is happy about the plans. Frontier Economics managing director, Danny Price argued that the expansion would be “diabolically difficult” to deliver and stated “We’ve got power stations closing right now, and so even if that plant was built on time, all it’s going to do is meet the demand that has grown between now and then.”

Environmental groups are calling for an independent inquiry into the plan, arguing it could potentially scar already vulnerable eco-systems. Australian Conservation Council chief executive Kelly O’Shannassy has welcomed the investment into renewable energy but has concerns about the potential environmental impacts.

“We are talking about the Murray and Snowy Rivers here which were incredibly damaged by the scheme, and we are slowly repairing that damage and we need to make sure any scheme does not take us back to the 1950s,” she said.

“Any adjustments to the Snowy scheme need to be considered for their impacts on the river system, agriculture, and environment.”

The Prime Minister stated that the expansion is “thoroughly commercial” and his government would be providing $500,000 in extra funding for a feasibility study to review geological studies and technology.

Subject to environmental approvals and funding availability, Mr Turnbull said construction could begin this year.

Share this article:

Find great plumbers


Get up to 3 free quotes. Compare and choose the best professional for your job.