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Work could resume on Snowy Hydro project in weeks

Work could resume at the Snowy Hydro project in Australia in a matter of weeks according to a report from the Guardian Australia.

The project stalled in late 2022 after the tunnel boring machine (TBM) stalled while boring a part of a 17 km (10.5 mile) tunnel between Tantangara reservoir and a planned power station 800 metres below the surface in New South Wales, Australia.

Costs of the pumped hydro project is now expected to cost $12 billion to get back on track.

Described as one of the civil engineering wonders of the modern world, the Snowy Scheme consists of nine power stations, 16 major dams, 80 km (50 miles) of aqueducts and 145 km (91 miles) of interconnected tunnels.

Dennis Barnes, Snowy’s chief executive, says the revised contract with the builders of the 2.0 project – Italy-based WeBuild – is still in its “final stages” but he expects it to be signed off soon.

Snowy’s amended environmental plans will go on public exhibition soon, with work expected to resume after that.

“We’re ready to go, [just] waiting for approval” from the New South Wales government, Barnes said.

The federal energy minister, Chris Bowen, said that the 2.0 contract had to be rewritten to reward WeBuild if they met budget and deadline goals and “punish or penalize poor performance.” Not to have reset the contract would have increased the cost beyond $12 billion, Bowen said.

Barnes told Guardian Australia that the project remained “incredibly critical to the transition” of the power grid away from fossil fuels, despite costs more than doubling from the most recent estimate. Its value, though, would be at least $15 billion, he said.

To provide an equivalent of 2.0’s 350,000 megawatt-hours of storage with lithium batteries would cost $130 billion, Barnes claimed, citing analysts Wood Mackenzie.

The project would generate money by pumping water to a higher dam during periods of low-cost electricity and releasing it through the power plant at times when power was costly.

Snowy 2.0 is twice the size of any similar project in the world, adding to its complexity.

Snowy’s reset aims to deliver power by the second half of 2027 and commercial operations for all units by the end of 2028. That latter date is a year earlier than the Australian Energy Market Operator estimated in its latest forecast report also released.

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