Australian consulting firm SMEC has been selected to assist in performing feasibility studies for 2,000 MW expansion of the Snow Mountains pumped storage project.
The “Snowy 2.0” proposal — first announced by Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull in March — would increase the facility’s cumulative output capacity by about 50% and represents its first expansion since the hydropower plant was completed in 1974.
“This project has the potential to deliver one of the largest pumped hydro schemes in the world and underscores the importance of the scheme’s existing role as the battery of the national electricity market,” Snow Hydro CEO Paul Broad said.
The company said its study will first review many existing expansion proposals — many of which predate its completion — in order to best determine how to use the plant as a rapid-response option.
SMEC, formerly the Snowy Mountains Engineering Company, traces its roots to the original plant’s construction as it was founded to provide engineering services for the Snow Mountain Hydro-Electric Authority. The contract will see SMEC reopen its Cooma office, with more than 30 employees to be based there permanently.
“Snowy Mountains are part of our namesake and the backbone of our heritage, so the chance to be involved in this project again is a unique ‘twice-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity, both for our organization and those engineers who worked on the original scheme,” SMEC CEO Andy Goodwin said.
The announcement comes days after Turnbull furthered his commitment to the Snowy Mountain project by allocating federal funds to purchase the complex outright from its majority owners. Currently, the state of New South Wales owns 58% of the project, Victoria owns 29% and the Australian government owns 13%.
Reports show Turnbull is ready to pay US$2.6 billion to NSW and $1.3 billion to Victoria for their shares, in addition to the estimated $148.3 billion being estimated for the upgrade plan.
The PM previously said the Snowy Mountain expansion will be capable of producing 20 times the 100 MWh projected from a competing battery system proposed by the South Australian government, while also increasing energy efficiency and stabilizing supply.
The 3,756-MW Snow Mountain project actually includes nine separate power stations, including the 80-MW Blowering, 60-MW Guthega, 950-MW Murray, 1,550-MW Murray 2, 329.6-MW Tumut 1, 286.4-MW Tumut 2, and 1,500-MW Tumut 3, as well as the 1.1-MW Jindabyne Mini and 14.4-MW Jounama Small hydro stations. The scheme also has one pumping station at Jindabyne and a pumped-storage facility at the Tumut 3 station.
Turnbull said the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will now examine several additional sites that would support large-scale pumped-storage hydropower within the region.
The scheme includes 80 km of aqueduct pipelines, 13 major tunnels more than 145 km long, seven power stations, eight switching stations and control centers and 16 major dams. The scheme has a total capacity of 3,950 MW and provides 32% of all renewable energy fed into the eastern mainland grid, powering Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.
HydroWorld.com reported Snowy Moutains was added to Australia’s National Heritage List in October.