Snowy 2.0, a nation-building pumped-hydro project that will provide Australia with on-demand, clean, renewable energy and large-scale storage, is celebrating its inaugural tunnelling milestone.

The project’s first tunnel boring machine (TBM), the Lady Eileen Hudson, has passed the one kilometre mark of the 2.6km main access tunnel, which leads to the site of the underground power station cavern.

Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor said Snowy 2.0 is going from strength to strength.

“Reaching this critical milestone brings Snowy 2.0 closer to delivering 2,000 megawatts of fast-start, dispatchable energy needed to make our grid secure and keep pressure on power prices for Australian families and businesses,” Minister Taylor said.

“Snowy 2.0 will store the excess energy from Australia’s world-leading levels of household solar and use that energy when the sun goes down, enough to power the equivalent of 500,000 homes for over a week during peak demand.

“The project is providing a major job and economic boom for the Snowy region, building on the great legacy of the Snowy Scheme, a national icon.”

Snowy Hydro Managing Director and CEO Paul Broad said the tunnelling achievement highlighted the Snowy 2.0 project’s outstanding construction progress.

“It’s an exciting time in the mountains with Snowy 2.0 – this is a megaproject that’s on-budget and due to produce first power in 2025 as planned,” Mr Broad said.

“Tunnelling at Lobs Hole is going very well, with about 4,500 concrete segments manufactured locally at our factory in Cooma used to create 500 rings to line the first kilometre of the main access tunnel. In total, around 130,500 segments will be produced for the Snowy 2.0 tunnels.

“We are also getting ready to launch our second TBM, named Kirsten, with our principal contractor, Future Generation Joint Venture.

“The progress being made by the project’s growing 1,400-strong workforce is particularly noteworthy given the very difficult scenarios we’ve faced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and bushfire impacts over the last year and a half.

“It’s particularly good to see the training and upskilling opportunities Snowy 2.0 is providing, creating lots of apprenticeships and giving local people the chance to work on the TBMs.”

There are three Snowy 2.0 TBMs, which will collectively tunnel more than 27km between Tantangara and Talbingo reservoirs. A power station with pumping capabilities will be located more than 800m below ground.

Snowy 2.o’s 2,000 megawatts of pumping and generating capacity and 350,000 megawatt hours of storage will underpin thousands of megawatts of intermittent renewables.