Building the World

Australia – Electricity from Snow


Sydney Opera House, Australia. Image: wikimedia commons.

The dream? Generate electricity from snow. Australia’s arid landscape, susceptible to drought, is also home to the Snowy Mountains located where snow melt yields 300 centimeters (120 inches) of water a year, flowing from heights over 7,000 feet (2,100 meters) into rivers west and east. When the drought of 1837 to 1840 caused farmers to indulge in the grim amusement of horse racing on the Murrumbidgee River whose dusty bed served as track, many wondered if the Murrumbidgee, Eucumbene, and Tooma Rivers might run into Tumut River to fall so fast, so steep, that generating electricity, as well as saving water for irrigation, would be possible. After World War II, a growing Australia needed more  power. The time was now. Prime Minister Benjamin Chifley took to radio airwaves in May, 1949 declaring: “The Snowy Mountains plan is the greatest single project in our history. It is a plan for the whole nation, and it needs the nation to back it.” Within weeks, the project was authorized, on July 7, 1949. How big is it? Sydney Harbor, of the famed Opera House, is big. But Lake Eucumbene is nine times bigger, and serves as Snowy’s main reservoir.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


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