Snowy Hydro has today achieved another exciting milestone, with the commissioning of the second tunnel boring machine (TBM) for Snowy 2.0, Australia’s largest renewable energy project.

The 11-metre diameter TBM Kirsten, one of the most innovative and technologically-advanced machines in the world, is one of three TBMs that will excavate more than 27km of tunnels for the massive pumped-hydro expansion of the iconic Snowy Scheme.

Snowy 2.0, which is on-budget and due to produce first power in 2025, is fundamental to Australia’s transition to a renewable energy future. Its 2,000 megawatts of pumping and generating capacity and 175 hours of storage – enough to power 500,000 homes simultaneously – will underpin thousands of megawatts of intermittent renewables.

Snowy Hydro CEO Paul Broad said Snowy 2.0 was creating 4,000 jobs and significant training and apprenticeship opportunities for workers, while providing a major economic boost for the Snowy Mountains region and beyond.

“Our first TBM, the Lady Eileen Hudson, is already a kilometre into the mountain excavating the main access tunnel and now we have TBM Kirsten continuing the tunnelling and construction progress for this amazing project,” Mr Broad said. 

“Our growing workforce of almost 1,400 includes hundreds of people from the local region and we have invested more than $70 million with local businesses so far.

“Upskilling workers and investing in the future of our youth will be important legacies of this project so it is very pleasing to see Snowy 2.0 apprentices around site learning their trades and local people having the chance to work on the TBMs.”

Mr Broad, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor, and representatives from Snowy 2.0 principal contractor Future Generation Joint Venture, today toured TBM Kirsten at Lobs Hole and watched the cutterhead spin.

Named after NSW astrophysicist and popular science communicator Kirsten Banks, TBM Kirsten is set to excavate the 2.9km emergency, cable and ventilation tunnel (ECVT), which provides alternate access to the underground power station. The 205-metre-long TBM will then bore the 1.4km inclined pressure shaft (IPS) and a 2.4km section of the headrace tunnel.

TBM Kirsten is setting a global standard in tunnel boring technology, just as the original Snowy Scheme developed rock bolting techniques that are still used throughout the world today. 

It has been specially designed to excavate the IPS on a very steep gradient (to +47% or a 25-degree angle) so all equipment within the TBM can switch to work on the incline, and the stairways and walkways pivot to remain horizontal.

TBM Kirsten was named earlier this year by local student Kobe Burnes as part of the Snowy 2.0 Tunnel Boring Machine Naming Competition, which highlighted leading Australian women in STEM.