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Snowy Hydro sites withstand blazes

There was only minimal damage at Snowy Hydro’s 2.0 construction site at Lobs Hole.

Despite the wrath of flames, Snowy Hydro’s power station sites and 2.0 construction areas have managed to pull through so well that the Tumut 3 Power station is currently feeding Talbingo its power.

The town’s power was restored on Tuesday after Essential Energy was able to repair the lines and install new poles before Tumut 3 powered up the town via its back up supplies.

Snowy Hydro’s Lower Tumut Area Manager Guy Boardman said that it was a joint effort.

“Snowy Hydro has worked in conjunction with emergency services, Essential Energy and Transgrid to achieve this and we really want to acknowledge the fantastic work all the agencies have been doing here in Talbingo,” he said.

“We were also able to get the Sounds of the Mountains local radio back up and running there too,” he said.

Mr Boardman said that the fact it was operating so soon after the event was testament to the way it had been designed and built and to the teams who maintained and defended it.

“If you look at T3 now you see bare earth all around it. But the infrastructure at our Lower Tumut region stood up to that fire incredibly well. The stations are designed and maintained to withstand severe conditions including bushfires,” he said.

Despite initial predictions that Snowy 2.0’s Lobs Hole construction site would be badly damaged by fire, Snowy Hydro personnel were both relieved and surprised to find that the infrastructure had been barely touched.

Even though the fire-front had gone through Lobs Hole, Snowy Hydro said the 2.0 construction site had fared well with only minimal fire damage to plant and equipment, and that work would recommence soon.

Currently, Snowy 2.0 contractors and project suppliers are preparing for phased remobilisation and will continue to work closely with the RFS and National Parks and Wildlife Service to determine what is needed to be done safely.

Mr Boardman said the priority now was to clear fallen and dangerous trees from around the main access roads so that staff could safely return to the site and re-start work on the project.

 “There are many local businesses involved with Snowy 2.0 and we know how important it is for the local economy for project work to get underway as soon as possible,” Mr Boardman said.

“It is a very difficult time for our community with the current bushfires and drought.

“The most important thing is that our people, their families and the local community are safe. Our staff were evacuated from our regional areas and sites last week, well before the fires came through,” he said.

Mr Boardman said Snowy Hydro has extensive emergency response plans in place for a variety of scenarios that could potentially impact operations and the plant. 

“Asset protection zones are mapped out for all power stations and key infrastructure such as power stations, switchyards, cables yards,” he said.

“These zones are well maintained all-year-round so we are well-prepared prior to summer and have the best chance of protecting our assets in a bushfire. These Asset Protection Zones were very valuable on Saturday, that’s for sure,” he said.

Snowy Hydro had its emergency response teams, fire trucks and equipment in action during the horrendous conditions of last weekend.

“One of the things we were able to do was lend one of the Rural Fire Service (RFS) brigades one of our Lower Tumut fire trucks to help protect the Talbingo township,” Mr Boardman said.

“There were multiple agencies involved in the preparation and response to the fire, such as National Parks and Wildlife Service, RFS and NSW Fire and Rescue, as well as our own Snowy Hydro people strike teams that were mobilised to the site.”

Snowy Hydro has gas and diesel-fired generation, as well as contracted wind and solar in NSW, Victoria and South Australia which helps ensure that it can generate energy even if one plant is offline.

The biggest risk to energy security is issues or constraints with transmission lines that run right across the state. 

Mr Boardman praised the efforts of all organisations and individuals assisting with controlling the blaze.

“Our sincere thanks go out to all the members of the RFS, CFA and emergency services, including our Snowy employees out volunteering and protecting homes and the community assets. You’re all doing an incredible job and we are grateful for your service,” he said.