Snowy Hydro creates safer working environment

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Snowy Hydro Limited operates and maintains two gas-fired power stations located in Victoria ­­(known as Snowy Mountains Scheme) and Red Energy, an electricity and gas retailer operating in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia. Snowy Hydro is also mainland Australia’s largest producer of renewable energy producing around 60 per cent of all renewable energy available in Australia. Snowy Hydro has evolved to be a manager of market risk with the ability to generate energy at short notice to meet market needs at all times.

In 2014, Snowy Hydro has been recognised as an ABA10 Winner for Innovation in The Australian Business Awards 2014.

Snowy Hydro is committed to maintaining its assets and supports investment in new technology to improve the safety, efficiency and effectiveness of our engineering. Tunnel inspections are an example of innovation at Snowy Hydro through the use of an unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) to assess tunnel condition. The water transfer network of the Snowy Scheme comprises 12 tunnels with a combined length of 145km.

Tunnel failures in the form of blockages could have a severe impact on water diversion and electricity generation capacity. Previously, to assess the condition of tunnels, de-watering was used. This process involved draining the tunnel of water and undertaking an intensive physical inspection of the tunnel walls. Whilst this is an effective way to assess the condition of tunnels, it also involves considerable time and cost investment to reduce risks associated with rock falls and ventilation to ensure the safety of personnel.

Comparatively new but proven technology combines the UUV and multi-beam sonar technology, allowing inspections to occur remotely without the need for tunnels to be drained or for persons to enter the tunnel. The UUV, a rectangular vehicle weighing almost 700kgs is directed through tunnels via remote operation.

Using advanced cameras, sensors and sonar technology, the UUV collects data on the condition of the tunnel, including a detailed profile of the entire wall circumference as it ‘swims’ through the tunnel over a 10 hour period. The innovative UUV technology not only creates a safer working environment, it will result in a multi-million dollar savings in the future.