£100m plan to harness Nessie's power

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The Independent Online

Scottish and Southern Energy is close to building the UK's first major hydro-electricity plant for over 40 years - on the shores of Loch Ness in Scotland.

Scottish and Southern Energy is close to building the UK's first major hydro-electricity plant for over 40 years - on the shores of Loch Ness in Scotland.

The Perth-based energy company is in talks with the Scottish Executive about planning permission for the £100m project.

Ian Marchant, its chief executive, said he was confident of success: "We expect to get planning permission, hopefully this year."

The hydro-plant, the second-largest in the country, would generate up to 100 megawatts of electricity, enough to supply 35,000 homes, and would take four years to build.

Under the plans, SSE, which generates and supplies electricity, would lay underground pipes almost 2,000 feet long to a new hydro-plant at Glendoe, on the banks of Loch Ness near Fort Augustus.

The pipes would link a reservoir, taking water from peat bogs at the top of the valley, down to the plant, also underground. The drop to the plant would be the biggest of any hydro station in the UK.

Having passed through the plant, the water would feed into the loch, unlike many hydro-plants which recycle water by pumping it back uphill during periods of low demand.

Mr Marchant says that this means operating costs would be a couple of pounds per MW of electricity generated, compared to costs of £20 per MW for gas- and coal-fired generators. Electricity sells for around £23/MW on the spot market.

Hydro-power, which uses moving water to drive turbines, generates around 2 per cent (some 1,300MW) of the country's electricity.

Virtually all of the hydro-plants are in Scotland and were built in the 1940s and 1950s. The Loch Ness plant, which already has planning approval from the local authority, the Highland Council, would be the first large-scale (above 5MW) plant built since then.

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