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Turnbull’s big plans to expand Snowy Mountains hydro-electric power station

Rob Harris and James Campbell, March 16, 2017 6:00PM Herald Sun

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Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced a $2 billion project that uses water to increase electricity supply.

The building of a giant new hydro-electric* power station will be fast-tracked* by the Federal Government to help prevent Australia experiencing an electricity crisis.

Hydro-electric power uses the force of rushing water to create energy and it is considered a renewable* energy source.

To create power, water is released from dams during the day and then some of it is pumped back at night to create more energy the next day, while the rest of the water flows downstream to preserve river environments.

10/10/2010 NEWS: Snowy Hydro Kosciuszko area manager Kieran Cusack stands by as the radial gates are opened allowing 84,000 mega litres of water to flow into the Snowy Hydro Jindabyne Dam down the Snowy River in NSW. This is the largest release of water since the Snowy Scheme was completed in 1974. media_cameraA Snowy Hydro employee watching 84,000 mega litres of water rush past him. Picture: supplied

Australia already has a hydro-electric power station in the Snowy Mountains in NSW. This power station is called the Snowy Mountains Scheme, or Snowy Hydo for short, and Mr Turnbull’s new project expands on this station.

Dubbed “Snowy Mountains Scheme 2.0”, the expansion* will increase the output of the original power plant, which has become an Australian icon because of the size and scale of the project when it was built decades ago.

Mr Turball hopes that his project will increase the plant’s capacity to produce power by 50 per cent, which would add enough energy to power 500,000 extra homes.

Worker at Snowy River Hydro Electrical plant in undated photo. Pic Snowy Hydro Trading. NSW / Industry / Power Station media_cameraInside the current Snowy River Hydro electrical plant. Picture: supplied

While renewable energy is good for the environment, there have been problems in the past with reliability in electricity supply, which can cause blackouts.

Mr Turnbull said the new project would help make renewable energy reliable.

“Every Australian should be confident that they can turn the lights on when they need them,” Mr Turnbull said.

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

The project will use a series of new tunnels and turbines* to generate even more electricity from the current water supply. Mr Turnbull says no new dams need to be built.

The government will now spend the rest of the year planing how the project could be done and building could start soon after.

The Government predicts the project will create thousands of jobs.

Snowy Hydro already provides back up energy to Victoria and NSW and could extend to South Australia when expanded.
The 25-year construction of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme remains Australia’s single biggest infrastructure* project, despite being completed 43 years ago.

Photograph of work in Snowy River tunnel from 1950s, featured in photographic exhibition regarding Hydro-Electric Scheme at the (Mitchell) State Library of NSW in Sydney, 10/2000. media_cameraConstructing the Snowy River tunnel in the 1950s. Picture: supplied

Sixteen dams, a pumping station and nine power stations are part of the scheme across more than 200km of tunnels, pipelines and aqueducts.

To build the project more than 100,000 were needed and included migrants from more than 30 nations, many who were WWII.

  • 1885 — The NSW Surveyor-General declared irrigation for the colony* would need to come from the Snowy waters.
  • 1948 — The Snowy committee suggested a hydro-electric scheme for the Snowy with waters also to be used for irrigation*.
  • 1949 — Building of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme began in October, starting 225km of tunnels, pipelines and aqueducts.
  • 1950 — The first of 60,000 foreign workers were employed to work on the project, many who migrated to Australia from Europe.
  • 1955 — Guthega Dam, the main storage dam, and the Power Station were completed.
Dam and water storage for Snowy River Hydro Electic Scheme in Snowy Mountains, NSW, 16 Feb 2006. / Industry / Electricity media_cameraPart of the Snowy Mountains Scheme in 2006. Picture: supplied
  • 1959 — The Snowy workforce peaked* with 7300 people working on the scheme in one year.
  • 1962-1973 — The rest of the power stations were completed.
  • 1974 — Construction of the scheme was completed on time and under budget.
  • 1987 — A ski-tube tunnel through Snowy Mountains opened for skiers and tourists to access the snowy slopes.
  • 2015 — The Snowy Moutains Scheme was added to the National Heritage List.


  • hydro-electric: power created by water
  • renewable: able to be used again
  • expansion: growth
  • turbines: machine used to produce power
  • infrastructure: physical structures and facilities
  • irrigation: distribution of water
  • peaked: reached the highest point


Activity 1.
After reading the story, write down what you have learned about how a hydro-electric power station works.

Next, write down a list of things you don’t know about hydro-electric power stations.

Share your questions with others in your class. Find the answers to your questions.

Time: allow 60 minutes to complete this activity

Curriculum links: Science, Critical and Creative thinking

Use the information from the first activity to plan and create a diagram that shows how hydro-electricity works.

Time: allow 40 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum links: Science, Visual Communication Design

Activity 2.
Hydro electric power is a type of renewable energy.

Do you know what renewable energy is? Write sentences explaining renewable energy.

List as many other types of renewable energy that you can find out about or think of.

Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: Science

Choose one form of renewable energy from your list. Find out more about it and create a poster that shows the benefits of using this type of energy.

Time: Allow 60 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: Science, Visual Communication Design


(Vocabulary, Connectives, Openers, Punctuation)
Prime Minister Challenge
Something has happened to Mr Turnbull overnight. He has decided to change his mind about what he said in today’s article! His people have contacted you and need your skills in writing and editing to help change what he said. Underline all the dialogue spoken by Mr Turnbull.

Rewrite the dialogue from the perspective that the money for the $2 billion project could be spent better elsewhere.

(Approx. 15 minutes)

Curriculum links: English, Big Write, VCOP

Activity provided by Andrell Education

Extra Reading in environment