The debacle of Snowy2.0


Lets be clear that the quest for net zero emissions has turned into the most disastrous policy bungle in our national history, wartime included, whether you go back to 1900 or 1788.

That can be explained by reference to the Iron Triangle of Power Supply in the electricity grid, bearing in mind to the logic of testing (or falsification, as Karl Popper called it.)

The three aspects of the triangle are:

  1. Continuous input of power. Adequate input is required all the time, not just most of the time or almost all the time.
  2. Wind droughts and especially windless nights break the continuity of input from wind and solar power.
  3. There is effectively no storage to bridge the gaps (despite all the talk about batteries and pumped hydro.)

Consequently the proposition that the grid can run on wind and solar power is falsified and there is no justification for the decision to contaminate the grid with subsidized and mandated intermittent input from environmentally ruinous wind and solar facilities.

Batteries can be ruled out very quickly by comparing the capacity of the biggest batteries in the world with the amount of power required to get through a windless night. Journalists don’t help by reporting the capacity of batteries in MW instead of MWh (megawatt hours) because the number of MW may be quite impressive until you realise that the flow only lasts for an hour or two compared with the 24/365 flow from a well-maintained coal plant. Scribes who report MW instead of MWh should be promptly escorted from the building with their personal effects thrown into the street after them.

More words are required to describe the inadequacy of pumped hydro to help because there are many large schemes around the world, and there are some small ones in Australia already. However I am not aware of any large scheme that runs on wind and solar alone. The largest facility at Bath, Philadelphia (US) runs entirely on coal and nuclear power to enable those plants to run continuously at their optimum output.

The concept of Snowy2.0 – the expectation:)

The Snowy Scheme: How it works

That is nothing like Snowy2.0, it just shows the principle of the upper and lower reservoir with pumps and turbines in between.

At Snowy2.0 power is generated when water runs down from Tantangara reservoir to the lower Talbingo reservoir until spare power in the grid is used to pump it back to the top.

According to the business case the upper reservoir has an active storage of 240 GL which, is supposed to be enough to generate 350 GWh of electrical energy (2000 MW for seven days.)  For comparison, when it was new Liddell coal station was designed to generate 2000MW continuously.

Critical Issues

Two highly experienced engineers in the Energy Realist team, Craig Brooking and Mike Bowden, conducted a thorough analysis of the scheme and found that it is a woefully inadequate effort.

Tantangara Reservoir has never been more than 70% full in the 23 years to December 2020. This means that there has never been sufficient water to generate the specified 350 GWh of electrical energy over 175 hours.

The long-term average storage available in Talbingo is approximately 33 GL. This volume is clearly insufficient to support 175 hours of generation, unless the water is allowed to spill which may violate the conditions of the ‘Snowy Water Licence”

The melancholy story

The scheme was announced by PM Turnbull in 2017 with an estimated cost of about $2bn. The feasibility study in 2017 predicted a cost in the range of $3.8bn to $4.5bn and the scheme was expected to deliver power by late 2024.

Nowadays it is uncertain whether the scheme will ever be completed and cost estimates (including major transmission lines and a substantial wind fleet) run up over $20 billion. The scheme depends on pumping power from a fleet of wind turbines that is almost as large as the currently installed capacity of wind power in the NEM. These additional facilities will cost in the order of $14bn, not counting the transmission lines.

The cost of power.

Bowden and Brooking modelled the system and determined that the likely cost of the power will be in the order of $450/MWh compared with the $135/MWh predicted in the business case.

Continuity of power supply

The scheme does not deliver a continuous flow of power because there is a pumping phase when water is moved from the lower reservoir to the upper level and a generation phase when the water runs down through the turbines. During the generation phase, a flow of 2000MW is specified. This is unrealistic (as noted above); it is the scale of a large coal-fired power station; but because the flow is not continuous, the total output is only a fraction of the output from a conventional power station.


20 responses to “The debacle of Snowy2.0”

  1. Vagabond Avatar
    Vagabond

    The Age published a nauseating piece of propaganda today about our clueless energy minister approving a new $3B transmission line between Vic & NSW. It will bring Turnbull Snowy 2 power to Vic and Victorian wind power to NSW (in her dreams heh heh). I submitted a comment with some home truths but needless to say it had still not been published about 6 hours later and never will be.

    As it happens I was a passenger in a car driving down the Hume at 1:00 pm last Saturday. It was a fine clear sunny day and we passed several kilometres of “solar farms” with thousands of panels facing north. I took a look at the AEMO website which revealed that under these optimal conditions only 11% of Victoria’s power was coming from solar and about 70% was coming from brown coal.

    Draw your own conclusions!

  2. Bruce of Newcastle Avatar
    Bruce of Newcastle

    Pumped storage systems are actually pretty basic installations, and are widely used.

    The amazing thing is that we can’t seem to build one without stuffing it up.

    The road tunnels in Sydney have been going like clockwork, really good tunneling tech and productivity. But the Snowy 2.0 tunneling seems to be a nearly total debacle. I dunno, maybe it’s just Malcolm Turnbull’s brilliant ability to turn even straighforward engineering into a complete mess.

  3. flyingduk Avatar
    flyingduk

    The people at the top *must know* the concept doesn’t work. That they persist means they don’t care, either because the profit anyway, or (more chillingly) because they *want it to fail* as part of the destruction of the west. I suspect the latter.

  4. Kingsley Avatar
    Kingsley

    One thing I think we should always do is refer to it as the TURNBULL Snowy Hydro scheme. Always put his name in it. Figuratively hang it around his neck for ever more.

  5. Roger Avatar
    Roger

    Journalists don’t help by reporting the capacity of batteries in MW instead of MWh (megawatt hours) because the number of MW may be quite impressive until you realise that the flow only lasts for an hour or two…

    Are they lying or just that dumb?

  6. Roger Avatar
    Roger

    The people at the top *must know* the concept doesn’t work.

    The best and brightest tend not to to go into politics anymore.

    It does seem to offer rich pickings for the venal, however, both during their political careers and, more especially, afterwards. Draw your own conclusions.

  7. 2dogs Avatar
    2dogs

    The people at the top *must know* the concept doesn’t work.

    That depends on your interpretation of “doesn’t work”. They are quite ok with the result of having time of day pricing that varies from $0.15 / KWh when sunny to $25.00 / KWh at night.

    Because they can afford electricity bills of $1,500 per week. Screw the poor who can’t – the poor can do without.

  8. WolfmanOz Avatar
    WolfmanOz

    Great post Rafe.

    Your series of posts on this debacle make it easy for a simple pleb like myself to understand it !

  9. rickw Avatar
    rickw

    Just imagine if these idiots worked in private enterprise. Bankrupt yesterday.

  10. wal1957 Avatar
    wal1957

    The long-term average storage available in Talbingo is approximately 33 GL. This volume is clearly insufficient to support 175 hours of generation, unless the water is allowed to spill which may violate the conditions of the ‘Snowy Water Licence”

    Wow!
    So that cuts power generation down to about 24 hours worth before the water has to be pumped up to the top dam again.

    White elephant anyone?

  11. MatrixTransform Avatar
    MatrixTransform

    Rafe,
    I tried to follow the link in yr post to the Brooking and Bowden pdf
    failed
    cant be found
    tried some variants and they failed too

    I did however find this glorious link to the climatecouncil.org.au where they state with awesome technical precision …

    Snowy Hydro 2.0 is expected to add 2,000MW of energy storage capacity

    preety sure Liddell is 4 x 500MW generators

    I hope the esteemed Climate Council aren’t suggesting that Snowy II’s entire capacity is only equal to a hour’s worth of Liddell when it’s cranking because that would be …. er … nevermind

    Let’s hope they can work out the details between energy and power in time to let Govt know so that they can save the planet

    what a bunch of mongs

  12. Mother Lode Avatar
    Mother Lode

    The scheme was announced by PM Turnbull in 2017 with an estimated cost of about $2bn. The feasibility study in 2017 predicted a cost in the range of $3.8bn to $4.5bn and the scheme was expected to deliver power by late 2024.

    Nowadays it is uncertain whether the scheme will ever be completed and cost estimates (including major transmission lines and a substantial wind fleet) run up over $20 billion.

  13. Mother Lode Avatar
    Mother Lode

    Sorry, referring to the above:

    Absolutely Rudd-esque.

    Remember how the NBN was at first estimated to cost $4 billion?

  14. David Tanner Avatar
    David Tanner

    Once again, MW is not a measure of energy storage capacity MatrixTransform

  15. duncanm Avatar
    duncanm

    bungle

    yeh – nah.

    Although I fully subscribe to Hanlon’s razor, in these cases, I think its deliberate.

  16. Bar Beach Swimmer Avatar
    Bar Beach Swimmer

    Kingsley says:
    February 20, 2023 at 5:18 pm

    Great idea!

    + ML on Rudd

    The Turnbull Snowy Hydro Debacle
    The Rudd-Turnbull NBN Debacle
    The Rudd Pink Batts Debacle

    What about State Govts Debacles?

    The Andrews East-West Link Debacle
    The Andrews Belt and Road Debacle

    We could go on all day…

  17. Foxbody Avatar
    Foxbody

    The Turnbull French subs disaster
    The Rudd – Turnbull NBN debacle
    The Gillard B E R Rortathon
    The Rudd pink batts brain fart
    The Gillard NDIS fraud juggernaut
    The multi – party “clean” energy debacle
    The 30 year Aboriginal Industry trillion dollar cesspit
    It is a wonder the nation is still here.

  18. MatrixTransform Avatar
    MatrixTransform

    MW is not a measure of energy storage capacity

    thanks mate

    … I’ll update the spreadsheets

  19. Rafe Champion Avatar
    Rafe Champion

    On recording the capacity of storage units, see the (revised) recommendation from this note
    https://www.flickerpower.com/index.php/search/categories/renewables/21-12-the-capacity-of-big-batteries

    False and misleading claims about the firming capacity of so-called “big batteries” must cease to enable a sensible debate about the future of the power supply.

    For a start, journalists who rate the capacity of batteries in MW instead of MWhrs should be promptly escorted from the building, with their personal effects thrown into the street after them.

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