Energy firm Drax ‘ready to move mountains’ for new hydro power project

The company is submitting a planning application for a new pumped storage hydro power station deep inside a Scottish mountain.

Katrine Bussey
Tuesday 17 May 2022 00:01
Drax has submitted a planning application for a new pumped hydro power station inside Ben Cruachan, where it already has a plant. (Drax/PA)
Drax has submitted a planning application for a new pumped hydro power station inside Ben Cruachan, where it already has a plant. (Drax/PA)

A renewable energy firm wants to build a new underground hydro power station deep within a Scottish mountain.

Bosses at Drax said plans have been submitted to expand their existing Cruachan Power Station to increase the total amount of energy the site can produce to 1.04 gigawatts.

To achieve that around two million tonnes of rock would need to be excavated to create the cavern, tunnels and other parts of the new power station

Drax said the planned station at its existing “Hollow Mountain” facility inside Ben Cruachan – Argyll’s highest mountain – would be the first newly constructed plant of its kind in the UK in more than 40 years.

Drax’s plan to expand Cruachan will strengthen the UK’s energy security by enabling more homegrown renewable electricity to come online to power homes and businesses across the country

Ian Kinnaird, Drax

The company also said its plans for a new underground pumped storage hydro power station would help cut carbon emissions and also boost energy security in the UK.

It believes a new station on the site could be operational as soon as 2030, with construction work getting under way in 2024.

Planning applications are being submitted on Tuesday, with Drax stating around 900 jobs could be created over the six years construction will take – with this total including supply chain jobs in a range of industries including quarrying, engineering, transport and hospitality.

Around 150 local on site construction jobs will be created.

How pumped storage hydro works. (Drax/PA)

The plans for the power station will see reversible turbines used to pump water from Loch Awe to an upper reservoir on the mountainside, with the hydro power plant then using this stored water to generate renewable electricity.

Ian Kinnaird, Drax’s Scottish assets director, said: “Drax’s plan to expand Cruachan will strengthen the UK’s energy security by enabling more homegrown renewable electricity to come online to power homes and businesses across the country, helping to end our reliance on imports and cut costs.

“This major infrastructure project will support hundreds of jobs and provide a real boost to the Scottish economy.

“Only by investing in long-duration storage technologies can the UK reach its full renewable potential, and Drax is ready to move mountains to do just that.”

Ian Kinnaird said Drax was ‘ready to move mountains’ for the new project. (Drax/PA)

Claire Mack, chief executive of the industry body Scottish Renewables, said the planned new station was “absolutely vital” to both Scotland and the UK.

She stated: “Pumped storage hydro is a critical technology needed to meet net zero. Over the last decade we have managed to develop the technologies to decarbonise the power system such as wind and solar, but what we really need now is greater flexibility to fully optimise those technologies.

“That’s why the success of long-duration storage projects such as Cruachan 2 is absolutely vital to Scotland and the whole of the UK.”

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