Hydroelectricity (also known as hydro) is a well-developed renewable energy technology that has been around for more than a century.
Hydro uses flowing water to spin a turbine connected to a generator that produces electricity. The amount of electricity generated depends on the volume of water and the height of the water above the turbine.
Large hydroelectric power stations need dams to store the water required to produce electricity. These dams are often built to hold irrigation or drinking water, and the power station is included in the project to ensure maximum value is extracted from the water.
Hydroelectricity does not actually consume any water, as all the water is returned to the river after use.
While hydro plants can have very large capacities, the amount of electricity they generate can vary considerably from year to year depending on rainfall and electricity demand. Hydro can provide both baseload and peak load electricity, and hydro generators can start up and supply maximum power within 90 seconds.
Hydro power accounted for 25.7 per cent of total clean energy generated and 6.2 per cent of Australia’s overall electricity in 2019. There are more than 120 working hydro power stations in Australia, with most of the nation's hydroelectricity generated by Hydro Tasmania's network of power plants and the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme in New South Wales.
of total clean energy generated in 2019
of total electricity generated in 2019
Hydro had a difficult year in 2019, with the impact of the drought in eastern Australia resulting in it making its lowest ever contribution to Australia's renewable energy generation. However, hydro was still the second-largest generator of renewable electricity in 2019, providing 14,166 GWh of clean energy into the grid.
Exploratory work on Snowy 2.0 began in 2019, with geological studies underway to gain an understanding of the rock that more than 26 km of tunnels will have to pass through. The massive 2000 MW/350,000 MWh project is expected to create 5000 renewable energy jobs during its lifetime and firm up significant quantities of wind and solar, helping to increase clean energy investment while lowering emissions.
Tasmania's Battery of the Nation project received some good news in December 2019, with TasNetworks finding that the Marinus Link connecting Tasmania with the mainland would be feasible at 1500 MW. This was important to the 2500 MW Battery of the Nation project as its business case depends on Tasmania being able to export excess hydro power to Victoria.
Snowy 2.0 and the Battery of the Nation clearly show that there is considerable desire in expanding the nation's hydro resources to provide additional storage capacity to complement renewable energy such as wind and solar power.
jobs created during the lifetime of Snowy 2.05000
Queensland will make better use of its hydro generators after government-owned clean energy generator CleanCo took over the assets in October 2019. CleanCo controls trading at the Wivenhoe pumped hydro storage plant, the Swanbank E gas generator and three hydro plants in northern Queensland. The new generator is expected to increase competition in the state's energy market, lower electricity prices and ensure that Queensland gets the most out of its renewable energy resources.