SYDNEY - Australia is planning to build a new multibillion-dollar underground hydropower station in a remote corner of the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales. It is a huge and complex engineering task, and could generate electricity for 500,000 homes.
The plan to generate power in the Snowy Mountains is ambitious.
Here is how it would work: When solar and wind farms create and deliver more energy than is needed, that spare capacity would be used to pump water between two reservoirs in the Kosciuszko National Park. The water would pass up through 26 kilometers of underground tunnels and pipeline to the higher of the two artificial lakes. When wind and solar cannot meet demand for power, water would be released back down the tunnel, turning turbines to generate hydroelectricity.
The task ahead for engineers is significant. The tunnel would have to pass through five types of rock, as well as several rivers and creeks. Before the five-year project goes ahead, a study will determine if the hydroelectricity plan is feasible and economically viable.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison believes the scheme will become a reality.
“It delivers as part of our sustainable plan to meet our emissions reductions targets and secure that the renewable power revolution that has been going on in Australia over recent years is able to be maintained through the firming power support that comes out of projects like this,” Morrison said.
The project revives memories of the original Snowy hydro scheme that was, at that time, Australia’s biggest engineering project. Construction began in 1949 and ended in the mid-1970s, and is considered to be a true nation-building enterprise.
Recent research by the Australian National University suggested that, at the current rate, Australia could expect to be 100 percent powered by green energy sources within 15 years. Wind and solar dominate the renewable power sector, although the majority of Australia’s electricity is still generated by coal.
The center-right government has said it would not phase out the use of coal-fired power generation in Australia despite concerns that fossil fuels are contributing to global warming.