What is hydropower?
Like other forms of electricity generation, hydropower uses a turbine to help generate electricity; using the energy of falling or flowing water to turn the blades.
The rotating blades spin a generator that converts the mechanical energy of the spinning turbine into electrical energy. The amount of electricity generated from each power plant depends on the quantity of the flowing water and the height from which it falls.
Some hydropower plants have what’s known as ‘pumped storage’. This means at night, when demand for electricity is low, water is pumped back up into the dam so it can be released again the next day when electricity demand is higher.
Hydro’s been in Australia for decades
Australia’s biggest hydropower generator is the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme, which has a capacity of 3,800 megawatts, almost half of the country's total hydro output. Construction started in 1949 and it was opened in 1972, and spans New South Wales and Victoria.
With nine power stations, 16 dams and 145 kilometres of tunnels, it’s one of the world’s most complex integrated water and hydro-electricity schemes.1
While the Snowy Mountains Scheme is the largest, there are more than 100 operating hydropower plants Australia. They are typically located in areas with high rainfall and elevation, with the majority in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.