hydro power plant
High-voltage lines, from Krasnoyarsk hydro-electric power station are shrouded in smoke from the Siberian Taiga wildfire outside Krasnoyarsk, Russia, July 23, 2016. REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin Reuters/Ilya Naymushin

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced its plan to outdo SA Premier Jay Weatherill's proposal on building a battery farm. According to the prime minister, the expansion of the Snowy Hydro scheme could provide 20 times the capacity of the battery system.

The prime minister said that the development would turn the precinct into a giant energy storage system. He said that it could deliver 350,000 MwH constantly for almost a week. The power supply would make renewables reliable, enable greater energy efficiency and stabilise electricity supply. He added that supercharging the precinct would ensure affordable electricity for Australian households and businesses.

Creation of jobs is another benefit that the expansion could provide especially in the field of engineering and construction jobs. It could also kill off any short or medium-term to privatise the scheme. The privitisation was considered by the Howard government in 2006 but it was later dropped. In 2014, the Coalition's Commission of Audit has raised the privitisation.

Turnbull government is expected to spend $2 billion for the entire four-year project. However, it planned to spend $500,000 for the feasibility plan in its initial stage. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) would search and examine several sites that could support the precinct's large scale pumped hydroelectric energy storage. The expansion would not build new dams but it would build new tunnels and power stations. The tunnels and stations would be connected to the existing storages.

Currently, Snow Hydro provides back-up energy to Victoria and New South Wales. The expansion is expected to extend to South Australia. The prime minister noted that the expansion has no impact on the scheme's ability to supply water to irrigators located in South Australia, Queensland and New South Wales.

Australia has 2.5 gigawatts of pumped hydropower capacity used for electricity generation, irrigation and water storage. The current hydropower projects are located at the Tumut 3 plant in the Snowy, the Shoalhaven scheme south of Sydney and the Wivenhoe Dam near Brisbane.

Labor prime minister Ben Chifley instigated the Snowy Hydro scheme in 1949 and it was completed in 1974. It has nine power stations, 16 dams, 33 turbines, 145 kilometres of tunnels and 80 kilometres of aqueducts. The scheme could produce 4,100 megawatt capacity. The scheme is owned by Victorian government by 29 percent, Federal government by 13 percent and NSW government by 58 percent. The Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation earned $581.4 million in 2015 to 2016.