Don’t take our water, warn irrigators, as Snowy Hydro expansion floated

Don’t take our water, warn irrigators, as Snowy Hydro expansion floated


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Water released out of  Lake Jindabyne into the Snowy River - part of the massive Snowy Hydro scheme.

Water released out of Lake Jindabyne into the Snowy River - part of the massive Snowy Hydro scheme.

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Two billion dollar plan to expand Snowy scheme for energy use puts water resources under focus

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“Don’t waste any of our water” - that’s the advice from the NSW Irrigators’ Council after it was revealed the Federal Government may expand the Snowy Hydro scheme to help solve the energy crisis.

Irrigators’ Council chairman Richard Stott said the $2 billion expansion plan that would include new turbine power stations appeared to be a “thought bubble”, with little in the way of detail so far.

The Council has approached Snowy Hydro for more details after the plan was put forward by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull today.

“We would be absolutely opposed to any extra use of water or wastage of water in any generation of power that would cut irrigation water,” Mr Stott. “If it can be done without affecting irrigation water then that is fine. Turbine generation would actually be fantastic.”

Mr Stott said many of his irrigation members were hurting from large energy bills, in many cases doubling in the last year. Solar power generation was not filling the energy gap for farmers, he said.

The new Snowy Hydro four-year plan would involve the building of new power generators, possibly one of them at Tantangara dam, the headwaters of the Murrumbidgee river. The scheme would, it’s thought,  pump water up to Tantangara from Eucumbene dam and be driven down again through turbines.

A feasibility study is expected to be finalised by the end of the year, with hope the scheme could be completed within four years. The Government predicts the scheme could provide power to an extra 500,000 homes. At the moment, the Snowy Hydro scheme only contributes a small amount of power to the national grid, mainly at peak times.

Professor Ken Baldwin, director of the Australian National University's Energy Change Institute and an ANU Public Policy Fellow said: “providing more pumped-hydro storage by enhancing the Snowy Scheme is one part of securing supply.  It will take energy generated elsewhere – potentially by renewables like wind and solar when they are in plentiful supply – and store it by pumping water from an existing dam uphill to another existing dam using new tunnels.

“At times of high peak demand when energy systems are under stress, the water is then released from the higher dam and flows downhill through the same tunnel to electricity turbines at the lower dam that then generate electricity.  The efficiency of this cycle can be as high as 80%, and involves little loss of water to the environment.”

Professor John Cole, Executive Director of the Institute for Resilient Regions at the University of Southern Queensland said : "The Prime Minister's vision to turn the Snowy scheme into a massive renewable energy battery represents on the one hand resourceful sustainable energy innovation and on the other national policy failure.

“The setting of accelerated mandatory renewable energy targets is killing off the possibility of a gas fuelled lower emissions transition and locking in longer lives for coal fired power stations. In terminating a carbon price, the Coalition parties have scuttled the potential technological and economic efficiency to be played by markets in facilitating lower emissions power generation.”

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